What Kind Of Water Is In An Olympic Pool: Saltwater Or Chlorine?

There are several different ways to treat a pools water in order to keep it clean. Olympic pools have many unique requirements about size and length in order to standardize competitions, but you may wonder if they also have special treatment strategies when compared to normal pools.

Olympic pool water is typically treated with chlorine, but there’s no rule about treatment of Olympic swimming pools. They may be saltwater, and some may even use Ozone or Bromine. In general, though, they will be treated with chlorine which is the predominant pool treatment strategy worldwide.

In this guide, we’ll take you through chlorine pools and saltwater pools. We’ll also highlight what kind of water Olympic pools use. Hopefully, in the end, you’ll have a clear understanding of these pools and their differences. Let’s dive in!

What are Chlorine Pools?

Olympic Swimming Pool

Chlorine pools use liquid chlorine or tablets (like these, on Amazon) to clean and keep the water safe. They have been around for a long time which is why they are also referred to as traditional pools. They’re usually blue but can be any color and are mostly found in public places, hotels, and schools.

The chlorine kills bacteria and germs, which would otherwise make swimming in the pool unhealthy. You should, however, note that swimming in a chlorinated pool is not harmful, but you should never drink water directly from a public pool.

Chlorine can also corrode metal surfaces, so you must ensure your pool equipment is made from stainless steel or other non-corrosive materials.

Why it’s Used

This compound (chlorine) is a powerful oxidizer that kills harmful bacteria and viruses by changing them into harmless compounds. The process is known as oxidation, which occurs when chlorine comes into contact with organic material.

Chlorine is typically added to water in small amounts using tablets or granules. These products are referred to as shock treatments because they’re designed to kill off large amounts of organic material at one time, such as algae.

How to Maintain it

It is, however, crucial to note pool treatment is more than following regular chlorine pouring routine. It also involves using other chemicals such as sodium bisulfate and acid. These products help maintain balanced PH and alkaline levels and enable chlorine to effectively kill algae and other bacteria.

If one factor is not balanced, all others deviate. So, for example, if alkalinity is off, the PH will also be destabilized, affecting chlorine’s effectiveness.

What are Saltwater Pools?

Saltwater pools are like an advancement of chlorine pools. They use a saltwater filtration system to keep the water clean and balanced. This saltwater is added to the pool via the system that keeps the salt level constant.

Some of the benefits of these pools include

  • Lower chlorine usage: Saltwater pools use less chlorine than traditional pools because they don’t need as much chlorine to keep them clean. They also don’t have to be shocked with chemicals as often as traditional pools do.
  • Healthier skin and hair: Because there’s not much chlorine in the water, you won’t get that dry skin or irritated eyes when swimming in your saltwater pool. You also won’t have to worry about bleached-out hair when you get out of the pool.

What Kind of Water is in an Olympic Pool?

Olympic pool waters are somehow different from other pools. It is not much of a high-tech difference, so you can easily implement it in your pool. These pools are generally treated with chlorine and ozone, making the water clearer, safer, and cleaner.

Although this is a relatively new phenomenon, it is not unique. It has been used over the years with tremendous results.

What is Ozone?

Ozone is a naturally occurring gas used as an oxidizer in swimming pools because it breaks down chloramines, which form when chlorine combines with ammonia from urine or sweat and causes eye irritation and respiratory problems.

Chloramines are also tricky to remove from water by traditional means like filtration systems and shock treatments with chlorine or bromine because they are so stable once formed.

Therefore, the use of ozone helps in addressing this problem and making pools more comfortable for athletes. It also gives it a distinctive and eye-pleasing blue color.

When Ozone was First Used

The first-ever use of ozone was in the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, when some German swimmers boycotted one of the pools. Their protest was based on the fact that chlorine-only pools pose health risks to humans, even though, by that time, the general belief was that such pools were the safest.

Ozone was added to the filtration system to fix the problem, and the athletes agreed to participate in the games. Onwards, subsequent game organizers added ozone to their swimming pools, which became the norm.

The Sydney pool has been touted as the best and the fastest pool worldwide. This may be attributed to using ozone, so swimmers experience no eye rashes or irritation, thus making their performance swifter.

The itchiness and irritation you experience in a chlorine pool is a health concern indicator. According to studies by Envron’s Dr. Jeremey Nkunzimana, when chlorine breaks down, it forms carcinogenic substances such as chloroform and Trihalomethanes (THMs). He thus advises the need to look at your body’s reaction to chlorine pools as a hazard.

Do All Olympic Pools Have to Use Ozone?

Interior details of lanes and seating in Olympic sized swimming pool

Even though ozone is safer, most jurisdictions worldwide have a law requiring pools to have a chlorine residual. This is even evident in German pools, which maintain the highest standards.

Regardless of laws and regions, if ozone is used as the primary sanitizer, effects associated with chlorine residue are adequately addressed. Other benefits associated with ozone use are:

Better Pool Infrastructure

Ozone use does not corrode metal and other pool infrastructure, unlike chlorine. This means a pool can last longer when disinfected with ozone than one disinfected with chlorine.

Better Disinfection

Studies show ozone is a super-fast disinfectant than chlorine. It also acts on and kills chlorine-resistant pathogens.

Reduction in Chloramine

Ozone acts on chlorine residue, which causes eye rashes and skin irritation. This leads to a better pool. Ozone is also known to keep the pool in a ‘shock’ state, which can only match highly-chlorinated pools (but with grave health dangers)

It’s Where the ‘Swimming World’ is Headed

Ozone use has continually been embraced, and its advantages continue to be studied to realize its full benefits. Therefore, it can be said this is where the world is going, as experts agree ozone use is incredibly beneficial.

Temperature Requirments

Apart from the disinfection and treatment, Olympic pools must also meet specific temperatures. This is because the athletes require a perfect environment that stimulates top-notch performance.

Generally, the pools should maintain a temperature of between 25-28℃. This translates to 77-82.4℉. Such a temperature range helps athletes remain warm, and avoid dehydration, overheating, and muscle cramps. Conversely, if a pool is too hot, a swimmer may feel uncomfortable due to overheating, and if it is too cold, there is a risk of cardiac arrest.

Despite this general recommendation, each sport may require different pool temperatures. This is according to FINA, the internationally recognized body handling water sports rules and regulations.

For example, water polo matches must maintain a temperature of 26℃. or 78.8℉. On the other hand, platform diving pools must not drop below 26℃ or 78.8℉, while artistic swimming needs 27°C or 80.6°F.

Depth Requirments

Similarly, Olympic pools have depth requirements, which might differ from ordinary pools. Practically, this is due to two main reasons.

  • They protect swimmers from waves. This is akin to swimming in an ocean where the waves inhibit you from fast and effective swimming.
  • Avoid hazards that may arise with shallow pools, and a performer dives from a high distance.

Therefore, Olympic pools are deeper, typically 3M deep. This distance has been determined to be the best for optimal performance. A deep pool means the splash and turbulence created will take longer to reach the floor, rebound, and slow down the athlete.


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