Prior to this competition, the existing world and Olympic records were as follows. Neither record was broken at the Sydney Games.
The 80 swimmers first raced in 10 heats. The fastest 16 swimmers overall advanced to the semifinals. The heats were raced on September 20. Each swimmer's time and overall rank in all heats is listed below.
The 16 semifinalists swam in two races on September 21. The fastest 8 men advanced to the final.