Sunday, July 13, 2014

Olympic Pool, Defined

There are certain terms that are thrown around loosely.  One of them that bugs me is "Olympic pool."  

Just about every time I move to a new city and go looking for a gym with a pool I am told, by people who should know better, that their facility has an "Olympic pool."

Last time I moved, I went to visit a gym that advertised an Olympic pool and found this:

Absolutely ridiculous.  This pool is not even 50 feet long.  It is a good pool for splashers and people to take water aerobics classes.  It might even be a nice place for children to learn how to swim.

But an Olympic pool it is not.

The next gym I visited also advertised an Olympic pool.  It looked like this:

True, this pool is longer.  It has lanes and stripes.  It is perfectly swimmable, but in Olympic terms it would be described as a short-course pool.  It is only 25 meters long.  Nobody serious would call it an Olympic pool, however.

Here is a schematic of an authentic Olympic pool.  It is 50 yards, or 164 feet, long. It has 10 lanes, each 2.5 meters wide.   (In elite competitions, swimmers use the eight inside lanes).

You can imagine Michael Phelps competing for and winning gold medals in such a pool.  The other two pools above, not so much.

Olympic pools are rare and quite busy because each one usually hosts several swim teams, the odd water polo squad, training for Ironman athletes and sometimes diving platforms at the far end.  It is the fortunate casual swimmer who has access to such a pool.  It is very rare to find one at a private gym.

Below is a photo of a particularly attractive Olympic pool in Melbourne, Australia.  Not only is it outdoors with long views of the city in the distance, but it also has a large canopy to limit sun exposure, a big plus for competitive swimmers who typically train for hours each day.

I have become accustomed to sales associates at gyms who casually and ignorantly throw out the term "Olympic pool" when discussing their facilities over the phone.

The easy way to figure out if these people know what they're talking about is to ask how long the gym's pool is.  Virtually none of them has the faintest idea.  That's the tell.  You just have to go down and see for yourself just how much smaller pool is.

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