Arms stretched overhead… eyes focused on the water… legs ready to push off – Olympic swimmers from countries around the world await the starting signal. Seemingly as swift as shining streaks of lightning, they hit the water. Stroke after stroke in perfect form, they race for the finish line. With speed always uppermost on their minds, the frantic, yet graceful motion of each swimmer does not cease until a water-worn winner surfaces at the race’s end. Swimming is the showcase of legendary champions like Jonny Weissmuller, Don Schollander and Debbie Meyer. Fine Athletes like these have made swimming a sport that is dearly loved by the American people. However, modern day swimming is much different from the early Olympics competitions. At the very first modern Olympics in Athens in 1896, the swimming competition was a hazardous event, for it was held in the treacherous Bay of Zea. By 1904, conditions had just slightly improved… with swimmers jumping from rafts and swimming in a chilly canal. It wasn’t until 1908 that builders constructed the first Olympic swimming pool… a simple hole dug in the grass of the central athletic stadium. But, at least swimmers were rescued from the hazards of battling the open seas. How different the competition is today with placid, warm waters, specially constructed indoor pools and electric timekeepers. Yet, swimming is still a thrilling sport of speed and endurance, loved by both athletes and spectators the world over.