Why There’s a Horn in Olympic Swimming

Spectators use horns to cheer on swimmers at Olympic events, creating a loud and distinctive atmosphere that swimmers can hear underwater.

what is the horn during olympic swimming

Olympic swimming events have been around ever since the first modern Olympic games in 1896. It is one of only four sports featured at every summer Olympics, along with artistic gymnastics, athletics, and fencing.

If you have watched any recent Olympic swimming competitions, you have probably heard the loud blaring of horns during the events. Many spectators have wondered why there’s a horn in Olympic swimming and what it signifies.

The simple answer is: People at the pool are using horns to cheer on the competitors!

TL:DR: The sound of horns during Olympic swimming events is due to the spectators cheering on the swimmers. 

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What Is the Horn During Olympic Swimming?

During the most recent Olympics, many people watching the swimming events on TV kept hearing loud (maybe even annoying) horns (ditto the water spraying). 

In their curiosity, many fans even jumped online to voice their concerns on sites such as Reddit and Twitter.

Some people shared their theories, such as the idea that teams might use the horn to communicate lap pacing. Others thought the horn was a way for the teams to announce the last lap to their swimmer in the event.

According to Belle McLemore, Managing Director of Communications for USA Swimming, the horn is much less practical and much more fun.

McLemore stated that the horns are not for pacing, as it would be tricky to execute the timing of blowing the horns. She added that swimmers can hear the horns underwater and distinguish between them and regular cheering- allowing them to know their coaches and team were there for them. 

people swimming in an olympic swimming pool
Photo by Kindel Media on Pexels.com

You can read more about the swimming horns from an interview McLemore did with Colorado’s 9NEWS

Rewatching the events, it also seems that some people watching the competition from the stands must have had air horns of their own. 

Why Do the Horns Sound Off in a Series During Olympic Swimming?

The fan support at the most recent Olympic Games’ swimming events caught some people’s attention thanks to the unique way many live spectators used their air horns.

People have commented online that the horns being blown during Olympic swimming events seemed to be going off only during certain times.

You can attribute this notion to the traditional way swimming fans cheer for their competitors. Most fans like to cheer, whistle, or blow their horns when their swimmer raises their head to breathe.

Of course, since the swimmers are breathing at different times, the resulting noise can seem chaotic for people unfamiliar with the tradition. But that is just one thing that makes competitive swimming such an entertaining sport!

Will There Be a Horn at Future Olympic Swimming Events?

Just like with the use of vuvuzela horns at events like the FIFA World Cup, fans of Olympic swimming have voiced concerns about the loud horns.

While some people love the horns, many fans at home and in person complain that the horns are an unnecessary distraction. Other detractors point out that lifeguards at swimming events often use horns to communicate vital information and that other air horns could endanger athletes in need of emergency assistance.

Regardless of how you feel about the horns, chances are the horns at the Olympic swimming events are likely to be addressed at future Olympic Games.

Whether through official bans, more stringent personal searches, or some other means, it’s expected that it will be much harder to bring an air horn to an Olympic swimming event in the future.

How did you feel about the horns during Olympic swimming? Whether you loved or hated it, we can all agree on one thing: those horns sure were loud!

More FAQs

Why is there an air horn during Olympic swimming?

There is an air horn during Olympic swimming to ensure that athletes are aware of the immense support they have from their teams. This horn stands out amidst the general yelling and cheering, and its sound can even be heard by the swimmers in the water. Interestingly, Twitter users have shared amusing comments about the presence of these horns.

What does 3 whistles mean in swimming?

The meaning of 3 whistles in swimming is that it serves as a signal for the swimmers to get ready. After the 3 short whistles, the starter will blow a long whistle with varying pitch, which indicates to the swimmers to get up.

What do they say at the beginning of swimming race?

They say “TAKE-YOUR-MARK” at the beginning of a swimming race. The referee signals the starter with an outstretched arm to start the race when the swimmers appear ready. Once all the swimmers are motionless, the starter gives the starting signal.

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