The winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang are in full swing, and while the half-pipe, giant slalom and figure skating are fun to watch, we can help looking forward to the 2020 Summer Games. We love everything about swimming!
You might think that swimming speed is strictly a result of training and athletic ability. Not so! NBC Olympic swimming analyst and Olympic gold medalist, Rowdy Gaines, says the 2008 Olympic pool in Beijing is the “fastest pool in the world.” A total of 29 records were set in that pool, and many of the medal-winning times in subsequent Olympic games in London and Rio were slower than in Beijing.
So what factors made the Chinese pool so conducive to speed? Since Beijing, the new standard for Olympic pools is 50 meters long by 25 meters wide by three meters deep. The depth set in Beijing seems to make the difference. Swimming experts explain that when the pool is deeper, it takes longer for the turbulence created by the swimmers to go down to the bottom, so it doesn’t bounce back up into the swimmers and slow them down.
What experts look for is stillness in the water, so circulation systems have to be state-of-the-art and are adjusted down during key races. Other factors that can help dissipate waves that might slow swimmers down during a race are the lane lines, buffer lanes and pool gutters. Lane lines don’t just keep swimmers in line, they act as wave breaks. In the Rio Olympic games, only the middle eight lanes were used for competition, leaving buffer lanes on either side. This lessened the impact of waves that push out and into the side walls. The overflow gutters also absorb any waves that make it to the side walls.
Other competitive swimming design elements that have improved swimmers’ times are the starting platform and backstroke ledge by Omega, first used in the 2012 games in London. Each lane was outfitted with the backstroke ledge that reduces slips and provides a better launch for in-water starts. Starting blocks have evolved continually and are considered a high-tech component of swimming competitions. Omega’s platforms position swimmers at the perfect angle for power starts.
Although the Rio Olympic swimming pool was fast, the diving pool became known for its startling green, murky water during the games. It was a mystery at the time, but it was later discovered thata a contractor added hydrogen peroxide to the water, which undoes the sanitizing effects of chlorine. What’s worse is less than a year later, the Olympic swimming complex was basically in ruins, featuring a pool full of orange, muddy water. We had a hard time even looking at that.
Like all fans of swim technology, we’re going to stay on top of the cutting-edge features we know are coming to Tokyo in 2020. We can also suggest that the Japanese make a small investment in a few Solar Breeze NX automatic pool cleaning robots to keep their Olympic pools in tip-top, swim ready shape.