Pickleball is quickly becoming a multi-million player sensation, and sports fans are already wondering if it will ever be in the Olympics.
Considering five new sports were added to the Summer Olympics last 2020, hopes for Pickleball to join the next 2024 Olympics might seem possible. However, the answer is complicated. Thankfully for you, we’re here to break it down. We’ll talk about pickleball’s recent popularity growth, how many estimated players are already playing the sport, and if it qualifies to be a sport in the Olympics.
Is Pickleball an Olympic Sport? The Pickleball Olympics
First off, pickleball is not an Olympic sport. There’s currently no Pickleball Olympics event. Although pickleball is more than 50 years-old, it’s only recently that it’s become the fastest-growing sport in America. Before that, pickleball was a competitive sport played by professionals who had to work side jobs to make enough money.
The 2024 Summer Olympics sports events has been finalized and pickleball isn’t part of the event. In fact, Steve Sidwell, directory of country membership for the International Federation of Pickleball (IFP) and pioneer for making pickleball an Olympic sport previously believed that there would no chance pickleball will be played in the 2024 Summer Olympics.
However, while Steve Sidwell and the pickleball community was hopeful for the 2028 Summer Olympics, the IOC has confirmed their list of invitations for which sports can petition to join the Olympics. Unfortunately, pickleball is not one of them.
Why Isn’t Pickleball an Olympic Sport?
The reason main reason why there is no Pickleball Olympics—why pickleball isn’t an Olympic sport—is because it’s popularity is relatively new. It was created in the mid-20th century and only began to gain massive popularity in the past few years. As such, it hasn’t had enough time to establish itself as an international sport like basketball or soccer to warrant Olympic inclusion and played as Olympic games.
Second, pickleball is primarily played in North America. While there are some tournaments and leagues in other parts of the world, most pickleball players are from the United States and Canada, which is another reason pickleball hasn’t achieved international popularity.
What Does Pickleball Need to Be an Olympic Sport?
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has a set of rules and guidelines published in the Olympic Charter that answers this very question.
According to the IOC, in order for a sport to be included in the Olympic Games, it must meet these requirements:
- The sport must be governed by an International Federation that complies with the Olympic Charter.
- The sport must be widely practiced around the world.
- The sport must be practiced by men in at least 75 countries and on four continents, and by women in at least 40 countries and on three continents.
- The sport must comply with the World Anti-Doping Code.
- The sport’s organizing body must be willing to comply with the Olympic Charter and the IOC’s rules and regulations.
- The sport must have a code of ethics that complies with the Olympic Charter.
- The sport must respect the principle of fair play and must not rely on equipment that is too expensive or too technologically advanced.
NOTE: These requirements are not taken from the Olympic Charter word for word. But, it is accurate to the Olympic Charter.
Although these requirements are specific and understandable, these are actually more “guidelines” than requirements. In reality, the IOC evaluates sports on a case by case basis and considers a variety of factors that are unique to that sport. This is because some sports could be a worldwide phenomenon, but simply can’t be played in 75 or 40 countries.
Two prime examples are snowboarding and BMX. While these aren’t played worldwide, their rising popularity at the time had enough crowd demand for the sports to be exempted from IOC requirements.
Does Pickleball Have the Requirements to Become an Olympic Sport?
Considering pickleball is the fastest growing sport in America right now, does it have the requirements to become an Olympic Sport? Here’s everything you need to know.
|IOC Criteria||Progress of Pickleball|
|Governed by an International Federation that complies with the Olympic Charter.||?The International Federation of Pickleball (IFP) is still not recognized by the IOC. But, the IFP is restructuring to fix this|
|Must be widely practiced around the world.||?The IFP has experienced a 360% increase in member countries since 2019, indicating that the sport is gaining popularity and participation around the world|
|Must be practiced by men in at least 75 countries and on four continents, and by women in at least 40 countries and on three continents.||?The IFP has expanded its footprint to over 60 member countries and growing.|
|The sport must comply with the World Anti-Doping Code (WADC).||?The IFP is an official world-governing body for pickleball and must follow the WADC.|
|The sport’s organizing body must be willing to comply with the Olympic Charter and the IOC’s rules and regulations.||?The IFP is a non-profit, volunteer organization that is complying with the IOC’s Olympic Charter and regulations.|
|The sport must have a code of ethics that complies with the Olympic Charter.||?Pickleball has a worldwide code of conduct for pickleball athletes that has been provided by the IFP.|
|Must respect the principle of fair play, not relying on equipment that is too expensive or too technologically advanced.||?Pickleball equipment is neither too technologically advance nor determinant on the ability of the player to perform.|
All the data in this table is taken from the IFP Organization website.
How Frequently Are New Olympic Sports Introduced?
The Last 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, had four new sports: karate, skateboarding, sport climbing (indoor rock climbing), and surfing. Based on this, wouldn’t the next 2024 Olympics also add more sports?
Unfortunately, the list of sports for the 2024 and 2028 Olympics has already been released and pickleball is not there. While pickleball enthusiasts were hoping to be considered for the 2028 Olympics, pickleball wasn’t invited to the event.
NOTE: Baseball or softball was scheduled to be the 5th new sport for the 2020 Summer Olympics. But, COVID complications and changes ultimately removed baseball or softball from the Olympics.
Sports That Were Added or Removed from the Summer Olympic Games
|Year||Host||Change in Olympic Program||Number of Sports|
|2024||Paris, France||Breakdancing added
Karate, baseball & softball removed
|2020||Tokyo, Japan||Baseball and softball, karate, sport climbing, skateboarding and surfing added||33|
|2016||Rio, Brazil||Rugby 7s and Golf added||28|
|2012||London, England||Baseball and Softball dropped.||26|
|2000||Sydney, Australia||Taekwondo and Triathlon added||28|
|1996||Atlanta, USA||Softball added||26|
|1992||Barcelona, Spain||Badminton and Baseball added||25|
|1988||Seoul, South Korea||Table Tennis and Tennis added||23|
|1972||Munich, Germany||Archery, Handball, and Judo added||21|
|1968||Mexico City, Mexico||Judo dropped from the program||18|
|1964||Tokyo, Japan||Judo and Volleyball added||19|
Will Pickleball Become An Olympic Game?
Given time and continuous growth, there’s enough reason to believe that pickleball will eventually become an Olympic game. Though a status change for the 2024 Paris Olympics is unlikely, we may see pickleball in the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.
Sports Invited by The IOC to the 2028 Olympics:
- Flag Football
These nine sports are invited to present their case to the IOC to join the Olympics.
Still Interested in Playing Competitive Pickleball?
If you’re still interested in playing competitive pickleball, the first step is finding a league or pickleball tournament to participate in. There are many levels of competition, so you can find an opportunity that’s right for you.