One size does not exactly fit all when it comes international swimming pools. FINA and USA Swimming have standards about the pools used for national and international competitive swimming events. There are two sizes used in swimming events, the short course and the long course.

A short course pool is 25 meters (82 feet) long and 18.3 meters (60 feet) wide. If the competition uses starting blocks, then the pool must be 2 meters (6 feet 7 inches) deep; if the swimmers start in the water, the depth may be 1.2 meters (4 feet). Short course pools feature multiple open turns. Colleges, high schools, and public lap pools might be this size due to limitations on available space and budget (less heating costs). In the United States, club swimming traditionally has two seasons; the short course season lasts from September to the end of March. NCAA swimming competitions are held in short courses. The FINA World Swimming Championships happen every other year and are raced in short course pools; this event is sometimes called the Short Course Worlds.

A long course pool is also called an Olympic-sized pool. Long course pools are 50 meters (164 feet) long and 25 meters (82 feet) wide. If the competition uses starting blocks, then the pool must be 2 meters (6 feet 7 inches) deep; if the swimmers start in the water, the depth may be 1.2 meters (4 feet). This size is the “gold standard” for swimming facilities. In the United States, club swimming traditionally has two seasons; the long course season lasts from April to the end of August. The Olympic Games and World Championships are held in long course swimming pools.

Both lengths have many features in common. The water temperature must be 25-28o C (77-82o F). Lanes must be separated by ropes that float; the ropes must be stretched firmly from one end to the other. For regular meets, there need to be eight lanes; ten lanes are required for the Olympic Games and the World Championships.

In the United States, some high schools and colleges use a short course measured in yards. Measuring 25 yards in length, short-course yard pools are at least 60 feet wide. Because the metric system dominated in Europe, it is very rare to find this size outside of the United States.

Swimming pools come in a variety of sizes and shapes. To host national and international swimming competitions, a facility must have either a short course or long course pool that meets FINA and USA Swimming regulations.