Host City: Athina, Greece
Date Started: April 24, 1906
Date Finished: April 25, 1906
Participants: 43 (43 men and 0 women) from 11 countries
Youngest Participant: Harald Julin (16 years, 28 days)
Oldest Participant: William Henry (46 years, 304 days)
Most Medals (Athlete): John Jarvis and Henry Taylor (3 medals)
Most Medals (Country): Great Britain (5 medals)
The 1906 swimming competitions were held in the Neo Phaliron Bay off the coast of Athens. This was in contrast to 1896 when the events were held in a nearby bay, the Bay of Zea. The judges had trouble with the open bay as the site for the swimming events because they had difficulty keeping the swimming lanes free of private boats. Barcs noted that "most of the swimmers complained because of the waves water got into their throat as they tried to breathe, and so they lost valuable seconds. Some even suffered from bouts of coughing and were forced to give up the race."
This was probably the greatest international swimming competition held to that time. Almost all of the greatest swimmers in the world were present. The British sent their top swimmers, Hungary was represented by Zoltán von Halmay, who was easily their greatest swimmer of that era, the Americans were represented by their greatest swimmer, Charles Daniels, and the Australians also sent one top swimmer, Cecil Healy.
One swimmer, however, was tragically absent. This was the Australian Bernard Bede "Barney" Kieran, who was the world record holder at two of the events on the program, the 400 metres and one mile freestyle events. He was the greatest Australian swimmer in the first decade of the 20th century and had set multiple world records in 1905. It was expected that he would compete at Athens in 1906 but near the end of 1905 he underwent surgery for appendicitis, and died during the surgery. However, he left his mark on the 1906 Olympics in the person of Charles Daniels. In 1905 Daniels faced Kieran at a meet in London, in which Kieran defeated Daniels easily. Kieran gave Daniels several pointers concerning his stroke and Daniels improved greatly after that, enabling him to win the 100-meter freestyle at Athens in 1906.
The 1906 swimming competitions were marred by poor weather, as they were held out in the open sea. They were begun on 24 April [11 April] and several events were also contested for 25 April [12 April]. However, the entire schedule on 26 April [13 April] had to be canceled because gale force winds that day brought huge waves to the Neo Phaliron Bay and the swimming competitions (and the diving event) could not be conducted on that day.
On 27 April [14 April] when the swimming competitions resumed, they were started but gale force winds again blew up in the afternoon roughening the seas so much that the events were again postponed until the next day.