Competitive swimming is about time. Time, in its smallest and simplest increments, is measured in fractions of a second, defining world records and personal achievement. When planning for an event of such significance as the Olympic Swimming Trials, there were basic elements, such as water depth, sightlines and turbulence reduction that were taken into consideration for the design to contribute to the athletes' quest in reducing seconds.
In competitive swimming, deeper is better. It is a known fact that swimmers create a pressure wave as they move through the water, caused by both their actions and their displacement. Years ago, the starts and turns were shallow, rarely deeper than three feet. The operating theory was that the stroke was where the speed was. Today the starts are deeper, the turns have 15 meters of allowable underwater dolphin kicking, and these competitive evolutions have the swimmers nearer to a 4 foot depth. The resultant pressure wave created by the swimmer is also deeper, creating reflected resistance, or bounce back to the swimmer. Deeper water limits these reflections, as the pressure travels in waves, dispersing its energy as it travels further.
The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. This simple axiom is especially important when considering the Olympic Swimming Trials in which tenths of a second can separate eight places in the standings. Systems that optimize water clarity for pool bottom striping, providing visual cues on ceilings (for backstrokers) and clear white lighting, provide the visual assistance needed.
Swimming in open water such as a lake is very different from swimming in a pool; the wave action makes swimming more difficult. Even the small disturbance caused by the swimmer himself or herself causes additional resistance that can add fatigue, lessening the energy for propulsion. Large diameter lane dividers with energy-dissipating rings quell the wave energy created by the swimmer while preventing these waves from spreading to the adjacent lanes.
Design of the perimeter gutter system was also critical, as removal of the start and turn surges and swim turbulence requires careful analysis of gutter profiles, capacities and flow characteristics to eliminate the potential for flooding and rebound. Additional care must be exercised when you re-introduce filtered water back into the pool. Inlets must be located and spaced to provide an even distribution of clean filtered water throughout the pool, in an adequate quantity to maintain water clarity, all while not creating turbulence.
There were many contributors to the success of the Olympic trial pool project. Working closely with the pool supplier, Myrtha Pools, Water Technology Inc. designed two independent filtration systems, providing perimeter distribution of the returns in a “high/low” pattern around the pool, one system being high distribution, the other low. While having the additional benefit of providing redundancy in filtration for this signature event, the design provides the pool with the ability to dial back the upper distribution system during events, reducing turbulence while optimizing filtration between the events. Superior filtration was mandatory to ensure the fastest pool possible.
Lane widths are another factor in turbulence reduction, allowing the wake created by the swimmer to spread further before meeting the lane dividers letting some of the energy to disperse while allowing the swimmer to “pass” the rebound point of the wake.
With two million gallons of water sitting on the floor at the Qwest Center, some of the world's best swimmers competing and thousands of spectators and fans to cheer them on, the atmosphere created was absolutely electric. Perhaps the best indicator of the quality of the pools, other than the records set, was the statement heard by swimmers and coaches, “Great swim, best time.”
Not only were nine world, 21 American, 19 U.S. Open, and 45 meet records set in the 2008 Olympic Trials competition pool over a span of eight days, but the Olympic Trials event set a new standard for swimming venues. The two 50-meter pools built inside an existing events center provide a glimpse of what is possible. One minor challenge that was encountered was space. In order to accommodate the competition pool, the first four rows of seats in the arena of the Qwest Center had to be removed. The coordination of design, fabrication and assembly in the Qwest Center occurred in the small time frame of one month.
With the journey of these Myrtha pools beginning in Castiglione, Italy to the Qwest Center in Omaha, Neb., where they were temporarily placed specifically for the Olympic Trials event, the pools were taken down, and transported to Chesterfield, Virginia for final placement in the Chesterfield County sports complex.
NUTS & BOLTS
Aquatic space:38,000 square feet (water)/12,000 square feet (deck space)
Year opened: 2008
Cost: $4 million
Dream feature: Nine world, 21 American, 19 U.S. Open, and 45 meet records were set in the 2008 Olympic Trials competition pool.
- Dream Designer: Water Technology Inc.
- Pool Contractor: DWR Construction
- Pool Manufacturer: Myrtha Pools
- Piping & Start Up: Pool Tech Midwest
- Filters: Neptune-Benson
- Gutters: Myrtha Pools USA
- Ladders/Grab bars: Myrtha Pools USA
- Lane Markers:Adolph Kiefer and Associates
- Sanitization Systems:ETS
- Starting Blocks:Myrtha Pools USA Inc.
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