Is Pickleball An Olympic Sport?

Are you curious about whether pickleball is an Olympic sport? Let’s get straight to the point – currently, it is not.

olympic symbol under american flag-will pickleball be in olympics

However, there is indeed a chance that pickleball will make its way into the Olympic Games.

Before pickleball paddles can aim for a gold medal, several criteria must be met, including official recognition of pickleball as a sport. This serves as just the start of a thrilling journey towards Olympic participation.

The Thrilling Game of Pickleball

Allow me to paint you a picture of pickleball, folks. Imagine badminton courts, tennis-like swings, a serving style straight from ping-pong, and a ball with the temper of a whiffle ball.

You got it, it’s pickleball! It’s an exciting game that’s seen a recent surge in popularity, with pickleball courts springing up in 40 countries across three continents, from people who have taken a fancy to it.

Is Pickleball an Olympic Sport?

Given its burgeoning popularity and the captivating excitement of its point-scoring battles, pickleball possesses the necessary qualities to become an Olympic contender.

Witnessing the beloved sport of pickleball featured in the Olympic games requires widespread recognition and support from people and nations across the globe. It is important to remember that every sport has its humble beginnings before ascending to the pinnacle of Olympic glory.

Current Status of Pickleball in IOC

The International Olympic Committee (IOC), responsible for recognizing international sports, has specific requirements for welcoming a sport into its esteemed ranks.

Our game, pickleball, has been gaining prominence, with organizations like USA Pickleball popping up to regulate the sport.

However, it’s important to note that pickleball is still expanding globally, with countries from Armenia to Aruba embracing the game.

While waiting for its Olympic debut, pickleball aims to meet the high standards and global presence that the IOC expects.

Understanding the Olympic Sport Inclusion Process

To be accepted into the Olympics, a new sport must go through a rigorous evaluation process and meet several criteria. Here’s what it takes for a new sport to be accepted into the Olympics:

  • Recognition by the International Olympic Committee (IOC): The first thing needed for a sport to become an Olympic event is to be recognized by the IOC. This recognition requires the sport to be governed by an International Federation (IF) and comply with the Olympic Charter, the World Anti-Doping Code, and the Olympic Movement Code on the Prevention of Manipulation of Competitions.
  • Petition for admittance: Once a sport is recognized by the IOC, its IF can apply to be admitted to the Olympic Games if they file a petition that establishes the sport’s eligibility criteria. The petition is evaluated based on various factors, including the sport’s popularity, governance, gender equity, and strategic planning.
  • Evaluation by the Olympic Programme Commission: The Olympic Programme Commission, consisting of members from the IOC and the local organizing committee of the upcoming Games, evaluates the petitions for new sports. The evaluation is based on five categories, which are further divided into 35 criteria, including the sport’s history, participation in world championships, financial status, and value added to the Olympic movement.
  • Approval by the IOC Executive Board and IOC Session: After the evaluation by the Olympic Programme Commission, the IOC Executive Board reviews the proposals for new sports. If approved by the board, the proposal then goes to the IOC Session, where all IOC members vote on whether to include the sport in the Olympic program.
  • Compliance with venue and cost considerations: The IOC also considers the cost and complexity of hosting the new sport’s events. The sport should not require excessive resources or leave behind unused venues after the Games. This consideration is aimed at ensuring the sustainability of the Olympic Games.
  • Geographical and gender representation: The sport must be played by men in a minimum of 75 countries and on four continents. For women, no less than 40 countries and on three continents to be eligible for inclusion in the Olympic program.
  • Value and appeal to the Olympic Games: The sport should increase the value and appeal of the Olympic Games and reflect its traditions. This criterion ensures that the new sport aligns with the goals and values of the Olympic movement.
  • Limited number of athletes: The number of athletes participating in the Olympic Games is capped, which can affect the inclusion of certain sports. Some sports may not be included due to the limited number of available athlete spots.

Will Pickleball Become an Olympic Sport?

Pickleball has been growing rapidly in popularity across various parts of the world, especially in the United States. The sport has seen a surge in players, tournaments, and media coverage. This rise in prominence naturally leads to questions about its potential inclusion in the Olympic Games.

Here are some factors that could influence whether pickleball moves toward becoming an Olympic sport:

  • Governing Body and Organization: A robust international governing body is essential for a sport’s Olympic bid. The International Federation of Pickleball (IFP) exists and has been instrumental in promoting and standardizing the sport across various countries. Their efforts in organizing international competitions, like the Bainbridge Cup, are steps in the right direction.
  • Global Popularity: One of the key criteria for Olympic inclusion is the sport’s global presence. Pickleball needs to be popular and practiced in a significant number of countries across different continents. While it’s popular in North America, its reach in other continents will be a crucial factor for Olympic consideration.
  • Adherence to Olympic Standards: The sport and its governing body must adhere to the Olympic Charter, which includes regulations regarding fair play, anti-doping rules, and non-discrimination.
  • Logistics and Viability: Pickleball, with its relatively simple court setup and equipment requirements, may have an advantage when it comes to logistics. It wouldn’t require large or complex venues, potentially making it an attractive addition from a cost and feasibility standpoint.
  • Media and Sponsorship Interest: Media coverage and sponsor interest can play a significant role in a sport’s Olympic bid. If pickleball continues to gain media attention and attracts significant sponsorships, it could strengthen its case for inclusion.
  • Cultural and Entertainment Value: The IOC often considers the entertainment value a sport brings to the Games. If pickleball is perceived as exciting and engaging for viewers, it could improve its chances.
  • Continuous Efforts: Advocacy, continuous efforts to promote the sport globally, and regular international competitions will be crucial. Building strong narratives around the sport and its players can also aid its Olympic bid.

While pickleball has made significant strides, the process of being included in the Olympic program is long and complex. As of 2023, there hasn’t been a formal announcement regarding its inclusion, but given its trajectory, it’s a possibility in the future.

Damien Dansel
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