The legendary heritage of the Georges-Vallerey swimming pool

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Updated on 14/05/2024
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Zoom in on the wooden frame of the Georges-Vallerey swimming pool (20th arrondissement).
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Parisians can once again enjoy the Georges-Vallerey swimming pool in the 20th arrondissement. With its 50 meter pool and retractable roof, it will host swimming and triathlon events during the Games. Here is a deep dive into its storied history.

It bears the name of a swimming champion turned savior

Famous French swimmer Georges Vallerey won bronze in the 100-meter backstroke at the 1948 London Games. Having set numerous European records (100m backstroke and 200m backstroke) and world records (including the 3 x 100 m 3-swim relay in August 1946), the champion also earned honors outside the pool. He was awarded the Croix de Guerre after saving French sailors from drowning during the Second World War.
In 1954, following the athlete's death after a long illness at the age of 26, the Tourelles swimming pool (20th arrondissement) paid tribute to him by officially becoming the Georges Vallerey pool. And with good reason: it was in this emblematic venue that he won his first national title in the 100-meter backstroke in 1945. Remarkably, his father, Georges Vallerey senior, also competed there in the 1924 Paris Games!

It sits next to some interesting offices

2024 is also the year of the swimming pool's 100th anniversary. After the halfhearted success of the second edition of the Games in 1900, Paris decided to go all out for the return of the international multisport event in 1924. The aim was to create facilities dedicated to the event. This is how the Tourelles swimming pool came into being.
Its name originally referred to its proximity to the Tourelles barracks, now home to the notorious DGSE (France's foreign intelligence agency) on Boulevard Mortier. It was also simply dubbed "La Piscine" by the media!
Charged with hosting the swimming and water polo events, it made a splash at the time with its 50-meter pool and 1,500-seat stand. Although the worthy heir to the 1924 Games is not hosting this time around, it will nonetheless be a training site for swimmers: swimming, marathon swimming and triathlon athletes will be able to train and practice there, before handing it over to Parisians as soon as the festivities are over.

Tarzan had a swim

While its infrastructure has made its mark on previous Olympic competitions, the Georges-Vallerey pool also remains legendary having seen sporting prowess. Johnny Weissmuller certainly had something to do with it. At the Paris 1924 Games, the American swimmer, aged just 20, won three gold medals there. The first in the 100-meter freestyle, the second in the 400-meter freestyle and the last in the 4 x 200-meter freestyle. To top off his incredible performance, the athlete also won bronze… in water polo.
After success comes fame. Thanks to his fame and his athletic build, he was offered a role in a movie, and not just any role. The swimmer made an appearance as Tarzan! Twelve feature films later, he still remains famous to this day for his famous ape man impression.

Its Olympic rings stand loud and proud

In recognition of its historic past and sporting value, the Georges-Vallerey swimming pool's facade now sports the Olympic rings. In 2017, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) authorized the affixing of the five rings to the building. A fine way to honor one of the first sites dedicated to this competition.
In a nod to this metamorphosis, a reproduction of the rings has even been installed opposite the pool inside.

From the Gay Games to the Nuit Blanche, the pool also promotes culture and inclusivity

Sharing, solidarity and inclusion are just some of the values promoted by sport as a whole. The Georges Vallerey pool has played an important part in passing on these values. In the 2018, for example, it hosted Gay Games water polo final. It also hosted a Pink Flamengo water show during the event. This aquatic comedy was the center piece of the 10th Gay Games.
As part of Nuit Blanche event in 2021, Parisians were invited to take to the water at a Swimming Pool Party. These events highlight efforts made towards inclusion throughout the capital.

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