Why Are There Lifeguards at Olympic Swimming Events?

Why Are There Lifeguards at Olympic Swimming Events

Olympic swimming events feature some of the best and most skilled swimmers in the world, who have been in the water practically since they were born. So, if Olympic swimmers are such good athletes in the water, why would the event need lifeguards present? Can’t the swimmers handle themselves?

Lifeguards are present at Olympic swimming events to provide first aid to injured athletes and to guard events other than the Olympics. While it obviously seems unlikely that an emergency would occur in the water, given the athletes’ training, anything is possible. Read on to learn all about what lifeguards do at the Olympics.


If you’ve been watching the Summer Olympics, you may be wondering: why do the best swimmers in the world need lifeguards watching them swim? It’s a fair question, but lifeguards are important members of the “behind the scenes” staff that make the Olympics possible. In the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for example, 75 lifeguards worked the Games. Many Olympic lifeguards are actually trained volunteers. At the 2021 swim trials, there were 700 volunteers with only 50 certified lifeguards.

Despite water sports like swimming and diving seeming relatively safe in comparison to other Olympic events, such as soccer, boxing, or track, the risk of injury is more present than most would assume. Thankfully, no drownings of Olympic swimmers or divers have ever been reported. However, injuries like cramps, concussions, broken bones, and even heart attacks are not unheard of and are all safety risks the lifeguards are on the lookout for. Like most lifeguards, Olympic lifeguards are specially trained in first aid, enabling them to respond to injuries or medical emergencies quickly in the absence of dedicated paramedics.

Other Swimmers and Events

One of the main reasons you’ll see lifeguards around the Olympic pool is for other people besides the Olympic athletes. Between Olympic events, other swimmers are sometimes allowed in the pool. Of course, these swimmers are not of Olympic caliber, and lifeguards are especially necessary to watch over these events. Additionally, before the actual Olympics take place, Olympic trials are held where competitors are chosen for the final team. Lifeguards watch over these events, too.

Lifeguards may also be in place for legal reasons in some instances. Brazilian law, for example, dictates the presence of lifeguards at pools of a certain size, regardless of whether or not the swimmers are professionals, hence their presence at the 2016 Games. Whether required by law, present for other swimmers, or watching out for Olympic injuries, lifeguards are like security, always watching for any type of emergency.



What is it like being an Olympic lifeguard?

Being an Olympic lifeguard is a lot like being a lifeguard anywhere else. Mostly your job consists of sitting around and watching, rather than having to jump in the pool. Like any lifeguard, Olympic lifeguards hope not to have to act on their training, and the good news is they are even less likely to be needed than your average lifeguard.

How much does an Olympic lifeguard make?

At the 2016 Brazil Games, lifeguards were only paid around $340 for 20 days (1,100 reals). Whether paid or volunteer, Olympic lifeguards clearly aren’t in it for the money or for the excitement of the job. Being a lifeguard means always being alert through times of boredom and constantly staying vigilant for injuries. Olympic lifeguards do get unique access to the most competitive swimming and diving events in the world and sometimes even meet the athletes, so there’s a great job perk.