Is Pickleball Considered an Olympic Sport?

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is pickleball an olympic sport

The Olympics has always been an internationally celebrated mega event that attracts the attention of sports fans, news agencies, and TV channels.

Not all sports known to us are played in the Olympics. Pickleball isn’t considered an Olympic sport, but that doesn’t mean it won’t ever be.

Will Pickleball Ever Make It to the Olympics?

When people think of the Olympics, there are some sports that come to their mind right away, including diving, swimming, athletics, and gymnastics.

The high variability of the sports in the Olympics makes it hard to keep track of all of them.

When it comes to pickleball, its unusual nature, in addition to how it borrows elements from other sports, make it seem like the sport would never make it to the Olympics.

Tennis and Ping Pong (table tennis) are already Olympic sports, so why would a game like pickleball, which shares many similarities with these two sports, be included in the Olympics?

Well, it’d be something new to watch, and it’ll certainly appeal to a wide audience, especially those interested in tennis.

Net sports are generally considered appealing, and pickleball is no exception. It’s a fast-paced sport and it’s not that complicated to understand.

The problem is that not many people outside the U.S. know about it.

How Often Are New Olympic Sports Added?

Typically, the most popular sports at the Olympics are broadcast during peak television hours, while new sports don’t get that much attention.

You may not even notice that some sports are there. For example, if you’ve watched the 2016 Olympics, you might have not known that rugby and golf were there.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is the main body that decides whether a sport should be included in the Olympic games or not.

There’s no limit to the number of new sports that can be introduced in a certain edition. For instance, it was announced that the 2020 Olympics will feature five new sports: baseball, skateboarding, karate, surfing, and sport climbing.

Some of these sports are pretty popular, while others have a limited base of followers.

Pickleball might not be that popular especially in countries outside North America, but that doesn’t take away its chance from becoming an Olympic sport.

What Are the IOC’s Criteria for Including New Sports?

There are some requirements a sport needs to meet before being considered as an Olympic sport.

The first and most important of them is that the sport needs regulation by an NGO. The regulation covers things like writing the rules of the sport and updating them when necessary.

The reason why this is so important is that the rules of each specific sport need to be standardized for all the countries around the globe to prevent potential rules manipulation.

The second requirement is that the sport must follow the Olympic Movement Anti-Doping Code.

The code states that all players must be clean of performance-enhancing drugs. This has been a common issue throughout many editions of the Olympics, so the IOC are starting to take this more seriously and strictly.

A sport that doesn’t follow the code doesn’t stand a chance of becoming an Olympic sport.

Moreover, for a sport to be considered by the IOC, it needs to have a minimum required level of popularity around the world.

The sport must be played in at least 75 countries that are spread between four continents if the sport is played by male athletes, or 40 countries in three continents if played by female athletes.

Nevertheless, even if a sport is internationally recognized, dope-clear, and popular enough, it’s still not guaranteed to be an Olympic sport.

An Olympic game must increase the overall competitiveness and viewership of the games. After all, the Olympics is a business.

Not every sport that meets the requirements of the IOC is added to the Olympics. Many sports have already met the requirements in the past but weren’t included for various reasons.

There are some practical matters that can be a concern when determining whether a sport should be included at a specific edition of the Olympic Games.

To further clarify what this means, let’s take a look at a potential scenario where something like that could happen.

A host country must provide all the facilities for the game to be played on its ground. If the host country can’t house this sport, it’s unlikely that it’ll be included.

This is mainly a problem with sports that aren’t practiced in many countries, and pickleball is one of them.

Another thing that further complicates the process of accepting a new sport in the Olympics is that in order to include a new sport, an existing sport must be ditched in favor of this new sport.

This may upset the fans of this particular sport, which would negatively impact the public image of the Olympic games.

That’s why the IOC must be seriously convinced that including a new sport is the right decision.

Will Pickleball Ever Be Considered in the next Editions of the Olympics?

As you’ve probably guessed, it’s not easy for a sport to be included in the Olympics.

While pickleball is increasingly getting more recognition internationally, it still has a long way to go before we can see it in the Olympics.

The International Federation of Pickleball is trying hard to spread the sport, but so far, the sport is nowhere near being practiced in 75 countries (not even 40) to meet the criterion set by the IOC.

Nevertheless, if the sport continues to grow significantly, there’s a good chance we might be watching its debut at the Olympics in the near future.

For now, the game is still mainly considered a U.S. sport that happens to have some fans in Canada too.

To wrap it all up, It’s unknown whether the sport will gain the necessary popularity soon, or ever.

For now, we can enjoy the game just as it is and hope for an Olympic debut as soon as possible.

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