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Still Fast, 25 Years Later: The Science Behind Georgia Tech’s Olympic Pool

Because it was the last Olympic pool built in the U.S., Georgia Tech's McAuley Aquatic Center, it's still producing records times, even 25 years later.
Because it was the last Olympic pool built in the U.S., Georgia Tech's McAuley Aquatic Center, it's still producing records times, even 25 years later.
Credit Emil Moffatt/WABE News

Among the venues that have lasted from the 1996 Atlanta Olympics is the swimming pool at Georgia Tech. And after 25 years, it remains state of the art. That’s because of its technology that still provides a competitive edge for those who swim there.

When most people watch Olympic swimmers, they mainly focus on the athletes. Georgia Tech Professor Jud Ready and his students, however, look at how the pool is designed.

“The course that I teach material science and engineering of sports,” Ready said.  “So we cover helmets and shoes and the playing surfaces.”

One case study of how engineering and sports come together is the McAuley Aquatic Center at Georgia Tech — originally built for the 1996 Olympic games.

There’s a variety of different ways that you can make a pool fast and they all have to do with keeping the wake from the opposing competitor from influencing you.”

And he says that means maintaining calm waters on the pool’s surface.

Because the pool is almost 10 feet deep all the way around, the surface water is hardly disturbed when athletes dive into the water to start the race, Ready said. The pool re-circulates the water from the bottom instead of the sides like a normal pool. It also features gutters on the sides that immediately trap waves so they don’t slosh back toward the swimming lanes.

The result, Ready says, is the fastest pool in the United States.

“The easiest way to judge that is records,” he said. “Not just personal records, but NCAA records or national records.”

And, more records could fall in March when the Olympic pool at Georgia Tech is back on the national stage hosting the NCAA swimming championships.