While there are no official plans to add pickleball to the Olympics, there is speculation that it may be added as soon as 2028 due to its growing popularity. It is played in more than 20 countries worldwide and is the fastest-growing sport in the United States.
Is Pickleball an Olympic sport?
Pickleball is not an Olympic sport.
However, many people are speculating that because of pickleball’s popularity, it may soon be added to the Olympic Games roster.
Tennis, table tennis, and badminton are Olympic sports, so it’s safe to assume that other racquet and paddle sports can be considered for inclusion. That said, adding a new sport to the Olympics takes time.
Speculation on Adding Pickleball to the Olympics
Is it possible to see pickleball added to the Summer Olympics roster in 2024? Unfortunately, no.
However, there’s still hope for Los Angeles in 2028, according to Steve Sidwell, a giant in the pickleball world. As the man who has made it his mission to get pickleball into the Olympics, he believes pickleball has a shot at meeting Olympic criteria.
Sidwell claims that the International Federation of Pickleball (IFP) will be present in some way at the Summer Games of 2024 and that being there can:
“set us up for L.A. or the very least as a demonstration sport, and the best possible case, maybe a (full) event.“Steve Sidwell, International Federation of Pickleball
Sidwell was first an ambassador with USA Pickleball before becoming President of the International Federation of Pickleball. He is currently working as director of country membership, trying to get the sport in 75 or more countries, which is the minimum required for Olympic sports.
Adam Franklin, a pickleball player and the CEO of Franklin Sports, agrees that pickleball is in a good position with membership to participate at least as a demonstration in 2028.
“There’s a lot of talk right now with the right parties about how we get this thing to the finish line so that in 2028 we can make this a demonstration sport,” Franklin explained in a recent interview.Adam Franklin, CEO of Franklin Sports
Pickleball being added as a demonstration sport in Los Angeles may help get it the international attention it needs. Stu Upson of the USA Pickleball Association said:
“What demonstration sports can potentially do is set up that sport for becoming an Olympic sport somewhere down the road.”Stu Upson, USA Pickleball Association
In disagreement is Alan Abrahamson, a sportswriter who has been covering the Olympics for the past 23 years. He is quoted as saying:
“Pickleball is way too North American.”Alan Abrahamson, sportswriter covering the Olympics for over two decades
Abrahamson’s case rests on the caveat that pickleball doesn’t yet have the international presence required by the IOC (International Olympic Committee).
The official Olympic bylaws for inclusion continue to provide an obstacle for pickleball to be added to the Olympics.
Criteria for a Sport to be Added to the Olympics
Adding a sport to the Olympics is a lengthy process that often takes decades.
Any sport wanting to be added to the Olympics must meet the following qualifications:
- Governed by an officially recognized International Sports Federation
- IOC drafted rules must be followed by the International Federation
- Must have an Anti-Doping Code which requires regular drug testing inside and outside competitions
- A petition must be filed by the International Federation to the IOC for inclusion
- The sport has to be practiced by men on four continents with at least 75 countries
- The sport has to be practiced by women on three continents with at least 40 countries
- The game must be physical or have a physical component
- Motorized and machine sports are automatically disqualified
- The governing body of IOC can recommend a sport that meets all the criteria to be added to the games if passed by the Executive Board in an IOC session
Even if a sport meets all of the above criteria, it may still be denied for financial reasons.
The Olympics aren’t cheap to host, and building sporting arenas can be costly.
The Olympics rely on wealthy sponsors from all around the world. Niche sports that aren’t appealing to the masses aren’t worth including in the program.
Should pickleball be added as a demonstration, it may prove desirable enough to overcome financial objections. It is also helpful that pickleball courts aren’t as expensive to build as the facilities for many other sports.
How Often are New Olympic Sports Added?
New sports can be added whenever they meet the Olympic criteria.
In Tokyo 2020, 5 sports were added including:
- Sport Climbing
Could pickleball be next?
Consider that in Paris 2024, breakdancing will be included as an Olympic sport. Many people are hungry to watch something new and exciting at the Olympic games.
Pickleball has it all: athleticism, skill, fun, and popular appeal. A popular demonstration could be key to pickleball being included in future Olympic games.
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