How Big is an Olympic-Size Pool?

Unless You Have a Palatial Estate, Forget the Really Big Pool

Rio olympic swimming pool
Buda Mendes / Getty Images

During and after any summer Olympics, people throughout the world get caught up in the thrill of the Games, the athletes, and the competitions. According to the International Olympic Committee, (IOC) the star attractions of the Summer Games are athletics (that would be jumping; throwing; and sprint, middle-distance, and long-distance races) and swimming. These are the most widely followed Olympic sports in the world and also have the largest number of events and participants from different countries.

That Olympic Pool is Really Big. Like, Really, Really Big

Indeed, this type of pool is large. The first Olympic swimming competitions of the "modern" Games took place in the sea or in a river, which, traditionally, are good-sized bodies of water. Competitions now take place in a 164-foot swimming pool, which is usually indoors.

If someone—like your boastful brother-in-law who fancies himself the Mr. Jones with whom everyone is trying to keep up—tells you he is building a genuine Olympic-size pool in his huge backyard, he is either:

  1. Suddenly, and perhaps suspiciously, wealthy
  2. Owns an estate or lots of land and this is the first you've ever heard of it
  3. Resides in an institution, like a school or some sort of municipal building
  4. Misguided or just a tad confused
  5. An outright liar

To clear things up, a regulation Olympic competition pool:

  • Contains about 500,000 gallons of water
  • Length is 164 feet (50 meters) 
  • Width: 82 feet (25 meters)
  • Depth: 7 feet; 2 meters (minimum); 9 feet, 10 inches (3 meters) is recommended
  • Pools for Olympic Games and World Championships must be equipped with flush walls at both ends*
  • Number of lanes: 10, formerly eight

Olympic Pool Facts

To put things in perspective, and just for fun, we share some Olympic-size pool-related facts:

  • It takes 6-1/2 years for the average American residence to use the amount of water required to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool (660,000 gallons). That's a lot, so you might want to cut down on your water-wasting habits.
  • California would need enough water to fill 16.7 million Olympic-sized swimming pools to recover from its historic drought, NASA scientists using satellite data estimate.
  • Niagara Falls: Water flows over the falls at a speed of 28,317,000 liters/sec or 100,000 cubic feet/sec during the height of tourist season?  The powerful falls could light up 24 million 100-watt light bulbs at once, or fill 50 Olympic-sized swimming pools every minute.
  • The 38 million soft drinks sold each year by 7-Eleven stores would fill 51 Olympic size swimming pools.
  • Swimmers have been competing in the Olympics since 1896, when it was one of nine sports in the Athens Games.
  • The first Olympics swimming competition held in an actual pool was at the London Games in 1908.
  • The first Olympics swimming competition were held in the Mediterranean Sea.
  • At the Paris Games in 1900, Olympic swimmers competed in the Seine River among ducks and fish.
  • It wasn't until 1912 that women began competing in swimming at the Games. Australian Fanny Durack won a Gold Medal in the 100-meter freestyle at the Stockholm Games.
  • Four strokes are used at the Olympic Games: the front crawl (freestyle), backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, and individual medley (a combination of all four).
  • Terms to be aware of are junior Olympic size, Olympic style, Olympic inspired. You get the idea.

Locations of Olympics or Olympic-Size Pools

If you have a burning desire to swim in an Olympic-size pool or one that was actually used during an Olympics competition, you might be able to find one near your home or make it your next travel destination. Among them:

* Source: Fina.org