The Ultimate Guide to Olympic-Sized Pools: Dimensions, History, and Building

An Olympic-sized pool is a swimming pool that meets the regulated dimensions and specifications for international competitions, such as the Olympic Games and the World Championships. These pools are also used for other swim events and training purposes by professional and amateur swimmers.

olympic-sized pools

Dimensions and Specifications of Olympic-sized Pools

According to the International Swimming Federation (FINA), an Olympic-sized pool must have the following physical properties:

  • Length: 50 meters (164 feet)
  • Width: 25 meters (82 feet)
  • Depth: 2 meters (6.6 feet) minimum, 3 meters (9.8 feet) recommended
  • Number of lanes: 10
  • Lane width: 2.5 meters (8.2 feet)
  • Water temperature: 25–28 °C (77–82 °F)
  • Light intensity: minimum 1500 lux (140 footcandles)
  • Volume: 2,500,000 liters (660,000 gallons), assuming a nominal depth of 2 meters

The length of 50 meters must be measured between the touch pads at the end of each lane if they are used. There must also be two spaces 2.5 meters wide outside lanes 1 and 8, in effect creating two empty lanes. If starting blocks are used, then there must be a minimum depth of 1.35 meters from between 1 meter from the end of the pool to at least 6 meters from the end of the pool. At all other points, the minimum depth is 1 meter.

If the pool is used for Olympic Games or World Championships, then the minimum depth is increased to 2 meters.

History and Advantages

The first Olympic-sized pool was used in the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, where it debuted with 10 lanes instead of the more traditional 8 lanes. This design was intended to provide advantages to the competitors by reducing the water turbulence and drag caused by the swimmers’ movements. The increased depth of the pool also helped to dissipate the water churn and create a smoother surface for swimming.

The Beijing pool witnessed 25 world records being broken during the games, demonstrating its effectiveness for fast swimming. Since then, more Olympic-sized pools have been built and used for various international and national competitions.

Comparison with Other Pool Sizes

Olympic-sized pools are not the only type of pools used for competitive swimming. Depending on the country and the level of competition, different pool lengths may be used. Here are some common examples:

  • 25-meter pools: These pools are slightly longer than 25-yard pools and are primarily used in international competitions that are not held in Olympic-sized pools. They are also known as short course meters (SCMs) pools.
  • 25-yard pools: These pools are typically found in neighborhood HOA pools, recreation pools, and National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) competition pools in the United States. They are also known as short course yards (SCYs) pools.
  • 33 1/3 meter pools: These pools are increasingly rare to find and are mainly used for water polo games.

Swimmers who compete in different pool lengths will have different times for their events, depending on the distance and the number of turns required. There are world records for long course meters (LCMs) and short course meters races, but only U.S. records for short course yards events.

How do I build an Olympic-sized pool in my backyard?

Building an Olympic-sized pool in your backyard is a very ambitious project that requires a lot of space, money, and expertise. An official Olympic pool is 50 meters long, 25 meters wide, and at least 2 meters deep. It holds 500,000 gallons of water and costs at least $300,000 to build.

Unless you have a very large backyard and a generous budget, you may want to consider a smaller pool size that suits your needs and preferences. There are many different types of swimming pools that vary in shape, design, material, and installation method. Some common pool sizes for residential use are:

  • 10 feet by 20 feet (Small)
  • 15 feet by 36 feet (Medium)
  • 20 feet by 40 feet (Large)

You can also use pool design software programs to create and visualize your pool layout and add features such as decks and patios.

Before you start building your pool, you will need to check the local codes and regulations for swimming pools in your area. You may need to obtain permits, inspections, and approvals from the authorities. You will also need to hire a reputable pool contractor who can handle the excavation, plumbing, electrical, and finishing work. Building a pool is a complex and lengthy process that involves many steps and challenges.

You will also need to think about the maintenance work required for your pool, such as cleaning, filtering, chlorinating, and testing the water quality. You may need to hire a pool service for the basic maintenance work or invest in pool equipment and supplies to do it yourself.

Building a pool in your backyard can be a rewarding project that adds value and enjoyment to your home. However, it is not a simple or cheap undertaking. You will need to do a lot of research, planning, and preparation before you start digging. You will also need to be prepared for the ongoing costs and responsibilities of owning a pool.


Olympic-sized pools are the standard for international swimming competitions and offer a challenging and exciting environment for swimmers of all levels. They are designed to optimize the performance and safety of the athletes, while also providing a spectacular spectacle for the viewers. Olympic-sized pools are also a useful unit of volume for making approximate comparisons to similarly sized objects or volumes, such as oil spills or lakes.