The short and sweet answer to this question is… no, pickleball is not an olympic sport. But there’s a three letter word that we want to add to that statement - “yet!” Pickleball is not a recognized olympic sport yet, but we believe it will be one day in the not too distant future.
Becoming an Olympic sport is incredibly complicated and there are a lot of factors that go into breaking into the most-prestigious sporting event in the world. Here are a few of the many things pickleball will need to check off its list before pickleballers will play for an Olympic gold medal.
The first step in the process of playing under the 5 rings is being recognized as a sport by the International Olympic Committee - more commonly referred to as the IOC. Once the sport is recognized by the IOC, it moves over to the “International Sports Federation status.” Once this happens, the organization administering the new sport will have to begin enforcing the “Olympic Movement Anti-Doping Code,” which basically means that whether in competition or at-home training, pickleball athletes will have to remain in compliance with the World Anti-Doping Agency, or WADA, 365 days a year for as long as they’re a qualified member of their country’s national team. Even when a sport is recognized by the IOC, this doesn’t mean the sport is admitted into the Olympics, it simply means that they’re recognized, eligible, and one step closer to becoming an Olympic sport. Woo. Glad that’s over with!
Even after all of that, there are still several steps that pickleball will have to complete before we get to enjoy country vs country battles to see the best in the world. Here’s a list of a few more of those pickleball checkboxes:
- “A sport must be widely practiced by men in at least 75 countries and on four continents and by women in no fewer than 40 countries and on three continents.”
- The sport must also increase the “appeal and value” of the Olympic Games and its traditions. (Which, let's be honest, wouldn’t be a problem for pickleball!)
- There are several other things, including bans on mind sports and sports dependent on mechanical propulsion (like race cars).
- In order for a sport to be added, there needs to be a sport removed. So if pickleball is going in, something’s gotta go out!
- Media and public interest in the sport. (Which, again, shouldn’t be an issue with the incredible growth in popularity over the last few years, and the true explosion yet to come.)
While that might feel like an unclimbable mountain, the reality is that pickleball is showing growth that only a few sports have seen in the past. While we’re not sure how many countries are actively playing pickleball, the presence of tennis courts and non-permanent courts makes it seem like the 75/40 requirement will not be an issue as the sport continues to gain popularity across the world.
The timeline of pickleball making its Olympic debut is unknown, but for a sport that really started its boom in the last 10 years, pickleball seems like it’ll have the fastest track to inclusion in the Olympics of any sport out there! 2024? No. 2028? Ehh, we hope so! 2032. Let’s count on it! Until then, sharpen your skills for when you might get the call from your country’s national team to go compete in the Olympics!
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