Pickleball is getting over more popular in the US. It has a large number of pickleball courts and other locations where you can play the game.
It is played in gymnasiums, community centers, retirement communities, high school gym classes and many other places.
Although pickleball has seen rising popularity (see also ‘Why Is Pickleball So Popular? [Everything You Need To Know]‘), it hasn’t been included in the Olympic program yet. But can pickleball ever be part of the Olympics?
In this article, we find out if pickleball is an official Olympic sport and what it takes for a sport to be added to the Olympic Games.
Is Pickleball An Olympic Sport?
No, pickleball is not an Olympic sport at the moment.
While pickleball is slowly becoming one of the most popular sports in the United States, it isn’t well known overseas.
This is one of the main reasons why pickleball isn’t included yet in the Olympics as a sport.
Why Is Pickleball Not In The Olympics?
For a sport to be included in the Olympic Games program, it must fulfill certain criteria which are listed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
One of these conditions is that the sport must be played in at least 75 countries from all four continents (for male players), or 40 countries across three continents (for female players).
Pickleball (see also ‘Pickleball Vs. Paddle Ball: What’s The Difference?‘) does not meet this particular criteria yet to be added as an Olympic sport.
How Often Are New Olympic Sports Added?
The ICO adds new Olympic sports regularly as long as they meet the Olympic Games requirements.
For example, in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo saw five new sports added, including karate, baseball, skateboarding, surfing and climbing.
These sports appear to be relatively niche but they meet the ICO criteria to be included, so they made it into the Olympics.
When you are watching the Olympics on TV or even live, you will notice that only the most prominent and well-known sports are included.
However, there are also some more unusual Olympic sports which you may not have seen on TV, such as rugby and golf.
These two sports were previously eliminated but have been reintroduced in 2016 as Olympic sports.
Criteria For A Sport To Be Included In The Olympics
It isn’t just enough for a sport to be popular but it needs to fulfill certain requirements and criteria set by the ICO.
The Sport Should Be Regulated
One of the most essential criteria for a sport to be added to the Olympic program is that it needs to be regulated by an international, non-governmental organization.
The specifications and rules of the sport must be clearly set down across all countries where it is player. This prevents any possible deviations.
Thresholds Of International Popularity
Although pickleball is an extremely popular sport in the USA, it’s not very well-known across the rest of the world.
For any sport to be included in the Olympics, it must be played in 75 countries across four continents for male athletes and 40 countries across three continents for female players.
Follows Anti-Doping Rules
Another essential criteria that an Olympic sport must meet is the strict Anti-Doping Code of the IOC.
All players must test free of performance-enhancing drugs. This is not just important for the players’ health but also an important part to perform well in the Olympics
Adequate Facilities In The Originating Country
There are not just specific sports-related criteria that need to be fulfilled but also practical concerns.
The host country of a sport must be able to provide suitable facilities to house the sport.
In addition, there also need to be considerable investment in the sport within the country to increase its popularity and appeal.
There Is No Guarantee
Even if a sport is globally popular, drug-free and internationally recognized, there is no guarantee that it will be included in the Olympic Games.
Many sports meet the majority of the IOC criteria but they still don’t make it on the program.
One famous example of this is chess. While it is hugely popular and fulfills a range of the IOC requirements, it’s not a sport in the traditional sense.
Plus, there is also limited space available for new emerging sports to get into the Olympics. This means that the IOC would need to drop a pre-existing sport to include a new one.
Could Pickleball Be An Olympic Sport?
Yes, pickleball could be an Olympic sport in future but there is still a lot to be done by players and organizations to further increase the popularity of the sport.
While pickleball is a mix of badminton, tennis and ping pong, this is exactly what makes it so popular across many different states.
This also would make it ideal as an Olympic sport in future. There are already a number of different net sports included in the Olympics.
Pickleball is relatively fast-paced which means that it’s great fun to watch for an audience. This could be very appealing to all Olympic fans.
But it will take a lot more than just increasing the number of viewers and players to get pickleball onto the Olympic stage.
Pickleball as a sport is represented by the International Federation of Pickleball which is responsible for driving the appeal across the world.
Despite many efforts, the number of different countries that pickleball is played in is currently much lower than the required figure of 75 (or 40) countries set by the IOC.
Although pickleball is expected to grow in popularity worldwide, it’s currently more a US game.
However, it’s well possible that, with greater efforts, pickleball may make its big debut in future Olympics Games.
When you think of the Olympics, then you usually think of the traditional sports like running or gymnastics.
However, there are also some lesser known Olympic sports which fans might not have realized that they are part of the Olympic Games.
Unfortunately, pickleball isn’t one of those sports but with more support from players and organizations, it could become an Olympic sport in future.