First, let me say I acknowledge that Olympic level swimmers are outstanding athletes. Speed swimming requires strength, technique, and endurance.
But let's get real. The amount of coverage given to swimming on the Olympic telecasts is ridiculous. The anointing of Michael Phelps as the "greatest Olympic athlete of all time" is laughable.
If Michael Phelps was not competing in 8 events in Bejiing, no one would be talking about him being the greatest Olympian ever. But what does he do, he swims freestyle. The he swims windmill style, then he swims on his back, then he swims 4 laps of the pool instead of 2. Please. What if they gave the basketball team gold medals for making free throws and rebounds and dunks, in addition to the one for winning the game? Those functions of basketball show a larger variety of skills than Phelps is showing in the pool, but the magnificent world class basketball players will earn one medal, and no one will be talking about any of them as the greatest Olympian ever.
And what about the gymnasts? The individual all around winner in men's gymnastics must do well in 6 different apparatus , if he falters badly in ANY of them he will not prevail, yet he receives only one gold medal. The same is only slightly less the case (4 apparatus) for the women, yet no one is calling them the greatest Olympian of all time.
Phelps records are a function of the great number of events available for swimmers. Yes he may be the greatest SWIMMER ever in the Olympics, but let's put some perspective back into this.
Finally, no one cares about swimming. Once the Olympics are over you will see Phelps name in the news for a month or two here and there, and then he and the sport he dominates will be gone from sight for 4 more years. Period.