Is Pickleball in the Olympics?
It only took me a quick internet search to discover that pickleball has been America’s fastest-growing sport over the past five years. As such, I expected to see pickleball on the program for the next Olympics, but I didn’t.
Is pickleball in the Olympics? Despite rapid growth, pickleball isn’t an Olympic sport. It’d need to be approved by one of the two Olympic committees and meet requirements like having players in 75 countries across 4 continents for men and 40 countries across 3 continents for women. At its current rate, many players expect it to be added by 2030.
Having studied all available material on the matter, I think the Paris 2024 Olympics is far too soon. Yet I’m hopeful that pickleball can make its grand appearance at the LA 2028 Olympics.
But what will it take for pickleball to be added to the Olympics? And why are so many people confident that pickleball will soon become an Olympic sport? Join us as I answer these pressing questions.
Is Pickleball an Olympic sport?
Pickleball is not an Olympic sport. This is because the regulations for getting a sport into the Olympics are strict and rather lengthy. However, the future is looking bright. It’s been a professional sport since 2019 and has blown everyone away with its rapid growth.
Requirements for a Sport To Get Added to the Olympics
There are two ways to introduce a sport into the Olympic program.
- The International Olympic Committee (IOC) meeting. This is the standard way of introducing new sports into the Olympic Games.
- Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (OCOG) recommendation. While this body sounds rather similar to the IOC, it is, in fact, different.
The IOC is the highest authority of the Olympics and governs all Olympic events. OCOG, on the other hand, changes year after year as it features representatives from the host nation.
Method 1: Approval via an IOC Meeting
The standard method of adding a sport like pickleball to the Olympic Games falls to the IOC. They hold a meeting to discuss the logistics of each game, including which sports will feature.
Of course, there are strict requirements it would have to meet for consideration. This includes:
- The International Federation (IF) must be recognized by the IOC
- Olympic Charter-compliant
- World Anti-Doping Code-compliant
- Olympic Movement Code on the Prevention of the Manipulation of Competition- compliant
As you may already know, pickleball has an international federation: the International Pickleball Federation. This was newly created in 2023 and took over from the International Federation of Pickleball, which has been in action since 2016.
But there are still some steps pickleball has to clear before having a chance at a gold.
How Can the IPF Become Recognized by the IOC?
The IPF must adhere to the Olympic Charter and prove standard sporting practices to earn IOC recognition. Examples of this include strict governance, fair play, and anti-doping.
Beyond this, they must also prove that their sport has international influence. This is perhaps the biggest hurdle to pickleball, as while it is very popular in the USA, it is less so internationally. The exact extent of this is unclear, but we can look to the 2008 Olympic program, which shed some light on the matter.
For this program, a sport had to be practiced by no less than 75 countries across four continents for men and 40 countries across three continents for women. I expect similar thresholds to remain in effect today, which is promising. The IPF has helped extend pickleball play to 80 countries as of 2023, meaning it should be well on its way to IOC recognition.
Method 2: Proposal From OCOG
The latest method of adding a new sport like pickleball into the Olympics involves having the OCOG submit a request to the IOC to include select sports. This was introduced in 2020, and it can speed up the process.
This forces the IOC to consider submitted sports, which they otherwise would never consider. As I see it, this is the only real advantage of this approach.
This is because the IF still needs IOC recognition, just like method 1. Moreover, while there’s no explicit mention of the Olympic Charter, World Anti-Doping Code, or Olympic Movement Code on the Prevention of the Manipulation of Competition, it stands to reason that any new sport would have to adhere to these rules just as the others do.
Another point to note is that this method only applies to the specific games OCOG applies to. Therefore, theoretically, a sport can be introduced for one Olympic Games and then excluded for another. That said, I can’t see this being the case unless extenuating circumstances exist.
Karate, Skateboarding, and Other New Olympic Sports
With this new method of introducing a sport coming into effect in 2020, Tokyo decided to take full advantage of the new rules. They requested the entry of several new sports.
Their application was successful, and the IOC introduced surfing, karate, skateboarding, sports climbing, and baseball/softball.
When Will Pickleball Become an Olympic Sport?
I don’t think pickleball will be able to make it into the Paris 2024 Olympics. However, the LA 2028 Olympics seem like a good target. With the incredible work the International Pickleball Federation is doing, it’s only a matter of time before they hit all the necessary criteria.
Pickleball is not yet an Olympic sport because it is not recognized by the IOC. To become recognized, they not only need to meet the criteria specified in method 1, but they must also submit a lengthy formal application. Neither of these have happened yet.
That being said, it is clear that firm steps are being made towards this goal. The growth of the sport to 80 countries is evidence of this. And the IPF is transparent that their ultimate goal is to establish pickleball as an Olympic sport.
What’s more, as the LA 2028 Olympics will be held in the USA, you can bet your bottom dollar that the OCOG for that Olympic Games will submit a proposal to the IOC if pickleball hasn’t already been introduced by that date.
Pickleball is not yet an Olympic sport as the International Pickleball Federation has yet to meet the criteria outlined by the IOC. However, they are making clear headway toward this goal and state that it is their main priority.
They have already helped spread pickleball to 80 countries as of 2023, which likely proves that pickleball has international influence, one of the criteria for an Olympic sport.
However, it is tough to predict when pickleball hits all of the necessary criteria. Pickleball at the Olympics for 2024 seems too short of a timeline; 2028, on the other hand, could be a realistic date. Given that it’s being held in LA, I expect a big push to get it into the games.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Pickle Ball in the Olympics?
Pickleball isn't in the Olympics because the International Pickleball Federation (IFP) has not fulfilled the requirements to get it accepted into the Olympic program.
What Are the 5 New Sports for the 2024 Olympics?
There are four new sports for the Paris 2024 Olympics. These include breaking, sports climbing, skateboarding, and surfing. They were accepted into the Olympic program back in December 2020.
Is Pickleball a Professional Sport?
Pickleball became a professional sport in 2019 after the creation of two tours: the Professional Pickleball Association (PPA) and the Association of Pickleball Professionals (APP). The latter is the only sanctioned tour by USA Pickleball, and average annual player earnings are $96,000.
Does Pickleball Have an International Federation?
The international federation for pickleball is the International Pickleball Federation (IFP). They were recently created in 2023. Before this, the International Federation of Pickleball (IFP) was the international governing body.
Will Pickleball Be an Olympic Sport?
Pickleball will almost certainly become an Olympic sport. It’s simply a matter of when. At the rate the sport progresses, there is a good chance we can see Olympic pickleball at the 2028 Olympic Games.