Summer Olympics Swimming: 10 Rules Every Fan Should Know

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Per its official website, the 2012 London Summer Olympic Games will feature 34 men's and women's swimming events, which will take place between Saturday, July 28 and Saturday, August 4. Thirty-two of the races will be held in a 50-meter (54.68 yard) long by 25 meter (27.34 yard) wide swimming pool in the Aquatics Center, located in the Olympic Park. The men's and women's 10-kilometer (6.21 mile) marathon swimming competitions will take place at Hyde Park.

Athletes in these events will compete against each other at various distances. Depending on the type of race, the competitors will propel themselves forward by using one of four strokes-the front crawl, the backstroke, the breaststroke, or the butterfly. Swimmers competing in events that are longer than 50 meters, except for the marathon swimming competition, may have to swim the length of the pool several times.

At the 2012 London Summer Olympics, the swimming competitions will rely on rules promulgated by the Federation Internationale de Natation (FINA), the sport's governing body.

Here are 10 FINA rules that fans need to know. All of the information comes from FINA's official website unless otherwise noted.

False Starts: Depending on the event, some of the swimmers will begin the race by jumping from platforms located on the pool deck, while other athletes will start from the water. In every case, a swimmer will be disqualified if he or she begins the race before the start signal is given.

Swimming Lanes: Athletes in all of the events, except for marathon swimming, have to remain in their swimming lanes. An individual who crosses into a competitor's lane may be disqualified.

Lane Ropes: Swimmers are not allowed to pull on the lane ropes.

Touching the End of the Pool: Athletes in all of the events, except for marathon swimming, must make physical contact with the end of the pool when turning to begin the next lap.

Swimming Gear: Swimmers cannot use (or wear) any gear that helps them move through the water. For instance, athletes are not allowed to wear flippers. Swimmers can use goggles.

Pace Setting: Swimmers are not allowed to utilize any individual (eg. a coach) or device to help them maintain a certain pace.

Medley Races: Swimmers competing in individual medley events must dedicate a quarter of the race to each of these strokes: the butterfly stroke, the backstroke, the breaststroke, and the freestyle stroke. In medley relay races, four-person teams will compete against each other. As Sports Illustrated notes, the squad's first swimmer will use a backstroke; its second competitor will utilize a breaststroke; its third swimmer will rely on a butterfly stroke; and he team's final athlete must swim freestyle.

Freestyle: According to FINA, an athlete in a freestyle event can use any swim stroke that he or she chooses. In medley races, FINA mandates that freestyle movements cannot be backstrokes, butterfly strokes, or breaststrokes.

Relays: Teams consist of four swimmers each. A squad will be disqualified if one of its members leaves the starting block before the preceding swimmer touches the wall.

Medley Relay Teams: Before the start of a race, teams have to determine which of their members will perform each of the four strokes and let the officials know. A squad will be disqualified if one of its members does not perform the correct stroke (eg. he or she uses a backstroke instead of a breaststroke).

More from this contributor:

Summer Olympics Synchronized Swimming: A History

Summer Olympics Synchronized Swimming: 10 Terms Every Fan Should Know

Summer Olympics Synchronized Swimming: 10 Rules Every Fan Should Know

The author is a freelance writer and an avid sports fan.

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