Swimming Pool Engineering


By Quintus Potgieter

The 2016 Rio Olympics are over. Thankfully, the Paralympics are about to start. They kick off on the 7th of September ; so more sporting action. A talking point you might have seen in mainstream media was the story of one of the Olympic diving pools turning green. One of the more interesting talking points you might have missed pertains to the Olympic swimming pools that are stationed at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium. More importantly, the structural design of the Olympic swimming pools which the Paralympians will be using in a few days. Word on the street is that the swimming pools have been designed in a way that would allow the swimmers to break world records. Are engineers solely responsible for Michael Phelps’ gold medals? (They are not.) But, it is rumored that they made it easier to win. Let’s find out how.

It turns out, structural engineers are more important to the Olympics than people realize. In both the Beijing and London Olympics, swimming coaches have been particularly interested in the structural design of a “fast pool”. In an interview with the National Science Foundation (NSF), a swimmer for the U.S. team, Missy Franklin, indicated that the swimming pools were being designed to “reduce the ripples and waves swimmers create.” Fast forward to Rio 2016 and the “fast pool” design is once again confirmed.

In an interview with Sports Illustrated, the University of California’s women’s swimming team coach Teri McKeever said: “A fast pool typically has at least three meters of depth to it. The deeper the pool, the better, because the splash or the turbulence and everything takes longer to get down to the bottom, and then it doesn’t ricochet back up into the swimmers.” Some swimmers confirmed that they do believe the one in the Olympic Aquatics Stadium definitely was built with speed in mind.

Moreover, a researcher named Barry Revzin writing for the website SwimSwam, published a report titled: Was there a problem with the Rio Pool?  The research alleges that the swimmers in the high-number lanes benefitted from a current created by the swimmers. If true, the engineers who designed the Olympic swimming pools (Myrtha Pools) had a deep understanding of fluid mechanics, along with structural design knowledge. The company specializes in stainless steel swimming pool construction. The U.S. women’s swimming head coach David Marsh praised the pool in an interview with TIME Magazine, seeing no problems with it. Furthermore, the president of Myrtha Pools rubbished the “current” claims, saying: “All I can say is we tested the pool before the event and after day 3 of the swimming with zero hint of a problem.”

The design and engineering of swimming pools are done in a civil engineering context. With that context, both structural engineering and mechanical engineering are focused on.

A good place to start with the studying and applying the engineering of swimming pools and similar projects would be the Engineering Institute of Technology’s Professional Certificate of Competency in Structural Design for Non-Structural Engineers that is scheduled for September 19, 2016.

The course will teach you about reinforced concrete structures, steel designs, and foundation design.  Structural analysis and design in several infrastructures will also be taught. These would be perfect building blocks towards understanding the engineering behind swimming pools, and many more applications. The course is a three month online course that includes live, interactive sessions with an instructor who is experienced in aerospace, mechanical and civil engineering. Twelve modules are covered that will teach students the different roles of a structural engineer. Who knows...you could be designing the next Olympic swimming pool that pushes athletes to the next world record.


Also coming up is the 24 month Advanced Diploma of Civil and Structural Engineering scheduled to start the week of September 05, 2016.

In this 24 month intensive, part-time program, you will learn:

  • Advanced skills and knowledge civil and structural engineering principles that can be applied in a variety of workplaces
  • The essential underpinning knowledge that guides a range of projects, including road, rail and drainage systems, dams, harbours, bridges, buildings and other structures
  • Practical skills in the design and drafting of engineering plans to international standards
  • Skills in engineering management

Works Cited
"Was There a Problem with the Rio Pool?" SwimSwam. 18 Aug. 2016. Web.