For most of us, the concept of an Olympic swimming pool is enough to make us feel happy, nostalgic memories of splashing around in a chlorinated pool as youngsters. But what is the history of the Olympic swimming pool? How deep are they actually and what else can you do in them? Read on to find out more about the fascinating past of the Olympic pool.
Beginnings In The 1900s
While the first modern Olympics took place in 1896, many of the events didn’t arrive until several years later. And it wasn’t until around the turn of the century that anyone thought to fill these events with swims. There was simply no concrete pool structure in existence at the time, so it was considered ‘unfair’ to put swimmers in the water.
But times have changed and so has the understanding of what constitutes ‘fair play’. In an effort to bring the excitement of an Olympic swim for all, various projects to create an Olympic-sized pool have been ongoing since the early 1900s. It’s fair to say that the construction of an Olympic swimming pool is something of a magical feat. It requires both the skill of an architect as well as the money of an incredibly wealthy individual or corporation.
Many of the first Olympic-sized pools were entirely made of cement, which was cheap and easy to get in large quantities at the time. But there is also the interesting story of how the first modern-style Olympic swimming pool came to be. In 1913, the University of Illinois constructed an Olympic-sized pool as a publicity stunt. It was said to be the first of its kind in the world and it was certainly a memorable moment for the school and the city of Champaign. Sadly, this pool didn’t last long and it was demolished a few months later.
A year later, in 1914, the International Olympic Committee awarded a grant to the University of Liverpool to build an Olympic-sized pool. It wasn’t until 1936 that a fully functioning pool was actually opened. This pool, which was the size of five Olympic pools, was a wonderful innovation at the time and it was considered the longest underwater tunnel in the world. Unfortunately, construction began to suffer due to World War II and it wasn’t until the mid-1950s that the pool was reopened. It has since been expanded several times and is still in use today.
The Modern Era
The modern era of the Olympic pool saw the invention of the diving board, which was first spotted at the 1948 Summer Olympics in London. In fact, the first-ever Olympic tricolor was hoisted at that year’s games. It was a glorious moment for French fans who had waited for over 60 years to witness the country’s flag being raised above the Olympic stadium. These days, the diving board is an essential part of any beach side pool. It provides a way for children and adults alike to get a glimpse at what is commonly known as the ‘sweet spot’.
It was also at the Olympics in London that the modern era of aquatics competitions truly began. Prior to that time, the concept of an Olympic swim was an afterthought – something that was done at the end of a sporting event as a means of promoting the next one. But thanks in large part to the sport’s emergence as an Olympic event, the idea of an athletic competition in water started to gain popularity.
Now, over 100 years later, we are definitely in the era of the Olympic swimming pool. With records as far back as the year 2000 being surpassed, many pools have been expanded to provide more space for athletic pursuits.
In the 2000s, many pools around the world were expanded to provide more room for bachelors and masters degree holders to train. Thanks to science and innovation, we are now able to maximize the use of our outdoor pools. In fact, many pools around the world now offer various forms of triathlon training.
Looking towards the future, we can expect to see more and more people participating in aquatic sports. With the right encouragement, anyone can become an Olympic swimmer. For those looking to further their sporting career, the opportunity to train in a purpose-built facility in an area rich in water sources is a gift from the gods. It’s fair to say that the future of the Olympic pool looks bright.
For those interested in the history of the Olympic pool, it’s well-worth seeking out old articles or watching old newsreels to see what all the fuss was about so many years ago. It’s an interesting chapter in the history of sport and it’s definitely an inspiration for those looking to bring beauty and sport into their everyday lives.