One of the more popular theories behind Michael Phelps zooming past records with every stroke—besides his US$500 LZR super suit and daily regimen of 12,000 calories composed mostly of mermaid babies—is that the Olympic pool itself is turning swimmers into Aquamen, but you know, not totally lame. But the pool's designer, John Bilmon says, it's really just because the Water Cube is really pretty and inspiring. They actually left out the two changes that would've granted swimmers superhuman speed.
Originally, his team wanted it to have porous walls, like a sponge, that would really absorb waves—way more than the pool's two extra lanes and gutters, which are actually pretty standard. The spongey walls would have been so effective in neutralising speed-killing waves, it might have profoundly changed the sport. But the Chinese didn't want to pay for them.
The other change, rejected by swimming's governing body, were new starting podiums with a flap, giving swimmers something to push off from, which testing showed cut a tenth of a second off times. They'll debut at next year's world championships. Guess you can't fight progress. [Radar]