2024 OLYMPIC GAMES: 2017 ISHOF HONOREE GEORGES VALLEREY ( POOL) (RE)JUMPS INTO THE DEEP END
PISCINE GEORGES VALLEEREY 75020 PARIS © AIA Architectes
re-shared: BY LUXUS +
Located in the 20th arrondissement, this pool was built in 1924 for the Paris Olympics. A century later, it is being renovated to welcome the athletes of the 2024 Olympics and to become a training site.
D-500 to go before the City of Light welcomes athletes from around the world for the 2024 Olympic Games. For the occasion, Paris is thinking big, and the capital is innovating and renovating. New buildings are coming out of the ground, while old buildings are being given a makeover. Like the Yves-du-Manoir stadium in Colombes, which hosted the 1938 World Cup final, the Georges Vallerey swimming pool is one of the sites that the city of Paris is recycling and renovating for the long-awaited Olympic Games.
Behind the building site structures and barriers, the establishment already displays the Olympic rings, symbols of these world-famous sporting events. And these colored rings, the Georges-Vallerey pool knows them well.
First Olympic pool
A century ago, the large pool of the Georges-Vallerey complex counted great exploits in its waters. Notably that of the American Johnny Weissmuller, three-time Olympic medalist, who later became Tarzan on the screen. In addition to these feats, it was avant-garde. It was, in France, the first Olympic pool with a 50-meter pool, which innovated by separating the pool into several lines, to create lanes.
A place full of nostalgia and victories, which unfortunately will not host new swimming events next year, due to a lack of seats in the stands. It will however be used as a training site before becoming an almost historical monument of the French capital.
A little rejuvenation
Inside, some 50 workers are working hard to complete the work in time for the beginning of next year. In addition to the floors, walls and everything in between of the building from the last century, the biggest part of the renovation concerns the swimming pool and especially the roof covering, which, since January, no longer exists!
This reconstruction was entrusted to the French architectural firm AIA architectes and led by Romain Viault, of the firm Architecte(s). A first construction site between 1986 and 1989 has already allowed the pool to change its cut, or rather its roof with a mechanism that allows to open and close it.
To go into a little more detail, the previous roof, which was made of larch wood will be replaced by Douglas, from forests in the Vosges and Jura. The new roof will be made of polycarbonate, a light and translucent plastic material with a high thermal resistance. This renovation, which will cost around 12 million euros, is financed in equal parts by the city of Paris and Solideo (the company responsible for delivering the Olympic facilities).
Eco-responsibility on the agenda
“Through this renovation project, there is also a very strong environmental and social ambition,” explains Flavie Anet, project manager for the operation within the steering and expertise division of the Paris City Council’s Youth and Sports Department.
A “green” and responsible renovation, since the city of Paris has decided to reuse the waste from the site such as iron, rubble or old installations to give them a second life.
For example, the wood from the old framework will be used to make furniture and signage, which will be placed in the renovated pool. The city of Paris has donated another part of the wood to the Extramuros association, a solidarity carpentry that reuses materials.
Other developments and solutions are currently underway, such as improving accessibility, particularly for the visually impaired, and air quality by renovating the ventilation system, as well as modernizing the lighting, which should reduce energy consumption by 40%.
The opening is scheduled for March 2024, for athletes who will have the chance to train in the footsteps, or rather in the “fathoms” of former medal winners. For Parisians, on the other hand, it will be necessary to wait until the end of the Olympic Games, i.e. around March 2025, to swim in the pool and enjoy the good weather and the sun on summer afternoons, thanks to the future new opening roof.
Featured photo : © AIA Architectes
GEORGES VALLEREY was inducted into ISHOF as an HONOR PIONEER SWIMMER in 2017.
The information on this page was written the year of their induction.
FOR THE RECORD: 1948 OLYMPIC GAMES: bronze (100m backstroke); 1932 CROIX DE GUERRE AVEC ETOILE DE BRONZE (War Cross with Bronze Star); 1947 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS: gold (100m backstroke); MEMBER OF FRENCH WORLD RECORD SETTING MEDLEY RELAY
In the early morning hours of the 8th of November, 1942, an armada of American destroyers, aircraft carriers and troop ships carrying 35,000 American soldiers approached the Moroccan coast under cover of darkness. Their mission was to destroy the French fleet guarding the port of Casablanca and occupy the city. The defending French warships were outgunned by the American fleet and as the battle ensued, several French vessels retreated into the harbor while under attack, hoping to avoid being sunk at sea.
Watching the battle from the beach, which was taking place a few miles out to sea, was Georges Vallerey, Jr. Although he was only 15 years old and not even 5’8” tall, he was a very strong boy, with a Herculean build and could swim like an otter. Nicknamed “Yo-Yo”, he was born in France and moved with his family to Casablanca, in the French colony of Morocco. It was in Casablanca’s Piscine Municipal, the largest swimming pool in the world, where his father taught him and his four brothers and sister to swim. Georges was always ready to help others and when he was only eleven he made news, saving a young girl from drowning.
Standing on the beach, Georges saw a ship being hit by high-explosive shells some 300 meters off the shore. By tradition, many of the sailors did not know how to swim and he quickly realized that many were drowning as they abandoned the ship. Without any hesitation, he undressed, jumped into the water and began to swim to the ship, which was still being hit by bullets and shells, through water covered with burning oil. He would rescue a sailor, return to the beach with him, and immediately swim back out to the burning wreck. While the bombing continued he didn’t stop until he found a little boat on the beach, tied a rope around his waist and swam it out to the ship. By this method he saved scores more seamen.
For his heroics, he was decorated with the Croix de Guerre avec Etoile de Bronze (War Cross with Bronze Star).
Three years later, in 1946, Georges, by now a robust young adult, began his remarkable swimming career that saw him establish with Alfred Nakache and Alexandre Jany the world record for the 300m medley relay. By 1947, he was the best French swimmer in the 200m breaststroke, 100m and 200m backstroke and 400m freestyle.
The next year, at the London Olympic Games, he won the bronze medal in the 100m backstroke. Unfortunately, the medley relay was not part of the 1948 Olympic program. The next year America’s Allen Stack, the 100m backstroke Olympic champion at London, thinking that the Casablanca swimming pool was fast, wanted to try for the world record and asked Vallerey to accompany him. Vallerey won the race in a time faster than Stack’s winning Olympic time had been.
Then in December, he swam in a Christmas Cup, where the water was at 1° Celsius (34° Fahrenheit). He developed a throat infection, that would incapacitate him for four years and finally claim his life on October 4, 1954, in Casablanca, seventeen days before his twenty-seventh birthday. In his memory, the Les Tourelles Piscine, where the swimming events of the 1924 Olympic Games were held, was renamed Piscine Georges-Vallerey. Today the pool has been renovated and is one of the great pools of the world – a lasting tribute to a great swimmer and hero who died too young.