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Oct 1, 2014
Paris – The “Piscine Molitor”, the setting for the Mercedes-Benz Media Night on the eve of the Paris Mondial de l’Automobile, is a truly legendary place. Tarzan actor Johnny Weissmüller, five-time Olympic swimming champion, once worked here as a lifeguard. And the hero of Hollywood blockbuster “ Life of Pi” was even named after “the world’s most beautiful swimming pool” – Piscine Molitor “Pi” Patel. After a 20-year slumber, the magnificent Art Déco structure was reopened last spring. Mercedes-Benz is there to present the world premiere of the sporting pinnacle of the C-Class line-up - the new Mercedes-AMG C 63 – as well as the new generation of the B-Class. The bestselling compact car comes with a broad spectrum of drive options, including state-of-the-art internal combustion engines and an electric drive with a range of up to 230 kilometres.
When the Piscine Molitor first opened in 1929, no fewer than two gold-medal winners travelled to Paris from the USA for the event – Aileen Riggin, who won the first ever Olympic diving gold for women and Johnny Weissmüller, who was the first man to swim 100 metres in less than one minute. He later became world famous playing Tarzan and spent a summer working at the Molitor as a lifeguard and swim coach. With the Art Déco facility in the style of an ocean liner, the French capital’s exclusive 16th arrondissement gained not only a swimming pool, but a new social rendezvous. The Molitor was the venue for bathing, flirting and even marrying; besides the 50-metre Olympic summer pool and the indoor winter facility with its 33-metre pool, there was an artificial beach, a restaurant and bar, a “Tabac”, a hair salon, a golf driving range and – in winter – a skating rink.
On 5 July 1946, the Molitor provided the setting for a truly sensational premiere: Louis Réard, a former automotive engineer who had switched to fashion design, presented a completely new kind of bathing suit – the bikini – causing a major scandal in the process. The two-piece may well have been generously dimensioned compared with today’s fashions, but, in its day, it was extremely skimpy. As a result, no model wanted to wear it in public, so Réard engaged at short notice the services of an exotic dancer from the Casino de Paris, 19 year-old Micheline Bernardini. “ It is so small that it reveals absolutely everything about its wearer except for her mother’s maiden name!” is how Louis Réard explained the particular appeal of his design. The premiere was a huge media success - and the bikini, named after the tiny atoll in the South Seas, embarked on a sparkling career, although it was initially frowned upon as shameless and forbidden in many bathing areas and swimming pools.
From Bathing Temple to Trendy Underground Rendezvous
The glamorous life continued in the Piscine Molitor until 1989, when the swimming pool was forced to close its doors due to structural defects. One year later, the empty complex was categorized as a “monument historique” and placed under a preservation order, thus rescuing it from the threat of demolition. For more than 20 years, the Molitor served as an unofficial studio for graffiti artists, a backdrop for fashion shoots and venue for secret parties and trendy events, until the restoration of the historic facility began in 2011 following a competitive bidding process.
Hollywood Creates a Cinematic Monument to the Molitor
In 2012, Hollywood also created a cinematic monument to the grand old Parisian swimming pool. For the Oscar-winning film adaptation of the novella “Life of Pi” by Canadian author Yann Martel, an almost exact replica of the Molitor was constructed on an airfield in Taiwan. “I was named after a swimming pool,” says lead character Piscine Molitor Patel, known as Pi, in the movie of his story, “the most beautiful swimming pool in the world in Paris”.
Following a reconstruction lasting two-and-a-half years and costing 80 million euros, the Molitor was reopened on 19 May 2014, comprising the two classic pools, a stylish boutique hotel with 124 rooms, a spa, gym and restaurants. By hosting the “Mercedes-Benz Media Night”, the magnificent pool reconnects with its great past as a rendezvous, stage and catwalk.