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There are two million swimming pools in the U.S., and I wouldn't be surprised if half of them have been described in glossy four-color brochures as "Olympic size." For all I know, some bathtubs may have been referred to the same way. The phrase "Olympic size" is meant to connote glamour and bigness, but because it's usually used inaccurately, it often has the not-incidental effect of devaluing Olympic-level swimming. In fact, a regulation Olympic pool is precisely 50 meters long, and nobody has covered two laps faster in an individual event than Rowdy Gaines' 100-meter freestyle world record of 49.36. By contrast, Rowdy could dog-paddle and traverse two laps of some of the pools described as Olympic size in the time it takes to wade through this sentence.

The number of pools in this country actually measuring 50 meters in length probably doesn't exceed 250. Most are under the auspices of colleges, big-time swim clubs and municipal parks departments. As for the many hotels and motels that wrongly call their pools Olympic size, most do so in the same spirit in which they describe their rates as "reasonable." Curiously, Houston's Shamrock Hilton, whose 55-yard pool actually comes very close to being Olympic size—it's 11½ inches too long—declines to bill it as Olympian but instead calls it "the world's largest hotel swimming pool," which isn't the case.

Some establishments are quite sly about suggesting that their pools are Olympian in dimension. The International Inn in Washington, D.C. refers to its 60-foot pool as "Olympic style," whatever that means, while The Sporting Club in McLean, Va. has a 25-meter facility that it nonsensically calls "a junior Olympic pool." The Turquoise Villa & Spa in Palm Springs, Calif. advertises a "42-foot, Olympic-size" pool, obviously not realizing that this is the equivalent of selling somebody a foot-long hot dog measuring all of three inches. I wouldn't touch such a junior foot-long with a 10-foot pole. Or a 50-meter one, for that matter.