Pickleball is Not An Olympic Sport… Yet

Is Pickleball an Olympic sport?

No, not yet. Pickleball is not an Olympic sport. While it is the fastest-growing sport in America, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has deemed it an official Olympic sport yet. This could change by the 2028 Olympics in LA, especially with the sport’s growing popularity in the US and globally.

Pickleball is not an Olympic sport… yet

Pickleball is not an Olympic sport today. In order for the IOC to include a sport in the Games, the sport needs to meet certain requirements. One of the conditions is that men from at least 75 different countries spanning four continents must play (or women from at least 40 different countries across three continents).

While pickleball is growing quickly in popularity, it has not met those requirements yet.

It will be exciting to see if pickleball can debut on the grand Olympic stage. There are billions of people who watch the Olympic Games around the world and the emerging sport of pickleball can grow tremendously with the valuable exposure.

How popular is pickleball getting?

According to the SFIA, the USA Pickleball website shows that there are 4.8 million pickleball players in the US. Outside of America, an increasing number of countries like Canada, England, Germany, Spain, Finland, France, India, and more have growing pickleball bases.

Internationally, pickleball is also on the rise. Over the last 2-3 years, the number of member countries in the International Pickleball Federation member has more than tripled from 15 to 70. Now members include countries like Russia, China, and even remote islands like Tonga and Guam.

For example in Germany, Andreas Kopkau (Chairman of the German Pickleball Association) said that pickleball is “clearly picking up speed in Germany.” The number of pickleball clubs in Germany has risen from three to over 60. And this is even while facing the challenge that in Germany many of its tennis courts (typically prime spots to set up and adapt for pickleball games in the US) are clay and not suitable for pickleball. (Source: DW

Perhaps Dirk Nowitzki’s (retired NBA champion and one of Germany’s basketball greats) recent forays into celebrity pickleball will further accelerate pickleball popularity in Germany.

Are there similar sports in the Olympics?

Pickleball is in many ways a combination of tennis, ping pong, and badminton, all three of which are official Olympic sports. (Read more about it’s origin story in The Complete Guide to Pickleball.)

This bodes well for pickleball’s consideration for the Olympics. Between the growing popularity of pickleball, and the fact that similar sports are already in the Olympics, many believe it’s not a matter of if pickleball will become an Olympic sport, but a matter of when.

While pickleball has a lot of similarities to tennis, there are also a lot of distinct differences. Here's our Top 10 FAQs on Pickleball vs Tennis.

Do the Olympics ever add sports?

Yes. The recent 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo was one of the Olympics with the most number of new sports in history. Tokyo 2020 (which took place in 2021 due to COVID) included new sports like:

  • Surfing
  • Skateboarding
  • Karate
  • Sport Climbing (or indoor rock climbing)
  • Baseball

How are Olympic sports determined?

Before a sport becomes part of the Olympics, it has to meet several requirements. Pickleball, like the other new sports added in previous Olympics, would need to meet these requirements too:

  1. IOC must recognize pickleball as a sport.
  2. IOC requires that a non-governmental organization needs to look after pickleball’s administration. In this case the International Pickleball Federation or IPF, the nonprofit aims to be the global governing body for pickleball.
  3. The sport is recognized as an international sport. As a result, the sport gets the International Sports Federation status.
  4. The sport has to reach a certain level of popularity. Specifically, pickleball must be played in 75 countries across four continents (for Men’s Olympic sports) or 40 countries across three continents (for Women’s Olympic sports).
  5. The Olympic charter and the anti-doping code are required. This means pickleball athletes would need to comply with the anti-doping code of the Olympics to qualify. This includes successful out-of-competition testing and adherence to Olympic rules.
  6. IPF needs to submit a petition to the IOC outlining their eligibility for pickleball to become an official Olympic sport. Afterward, the activity can be admitted to the Olympic program in one of three ways:
    1. Sport (e.g. track and field)
    2. Discipline (e.g. women’s skateboarding)
    3. Event (e.g. long jump)

As a note, the Olympic committee does not allow games or sports that are purely mental or mechanically propelled. It’s the reason why chess is not an Olympic sport.

When will pickleball become an Olympic sport?

First, pickleball must gain more international popularity. The International Federation of Pickleball will need to take additional steps to meet the Olympic requirements.

Pickleball organizers are planning a bid for Olympic inclusion to bring more attention and exposure to the sport.

Currently, the International Pickleball Federation has 70 member countries. Many of these countries joined in the last three years. The requirement is to get to 75 countries (for Olympic men’s sports).

Steve Sidwell is the man leading the charge for pickleball to be an Olympic sport. Sidwell retired 10 years ago and started playing pickleball in 2015. He became obsessed with the amazing sport and soon found himself as a volunteer ambassador for USA Pickleball, even “spending 60-plus hours a week as a volunteer.” (Source: Desert Sun) More recently, he was the president of the International Pickleball Federation. Now Sidwell has taken a step back to focus on growing international membership as the IPF’s director of membership. His goal? Get at least 75 countries onboard.

There is not guarantee that a sport gets added to Olympics even if it reaches all the requirements. For example, additional considerations could include whether a host country has or can provide adequate facilities to house the sport. Luckily, building pickleball courts is much less expensive and more straightforward than constructing a swimming center or a velodrome for cycling.

Did you know you could build your own pickleball court for $45,000? Or you can easily setup a temporary court for $150 or less with the 7 Best Portable Pickleball Nets for Tennis Courts.

The Olympics is also a business, so another contributing factor is whether or not pickleball has the right appeal for the Games. This is why Sidwell said that International Pickleball Federation is planning an event in Paris during the 2024 Olympics to build more hype: “It may not be a full-fledged demonstration” but Sidwell thinks “that sets us up for L.A. — for the very least as a demonstration sport, and the best possible case, maybe a (full) event.” (Source: Desert Sun)

Pickleball is undeniably popular, so we bet there is a good shot of seeing pickleball debut in the 2028 Summer Olympics in LA.

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