Pickleball is growing in popularity across the United States and around the world. So are there athletes playing pickleball at the Olympic games? We did the research to check for you.
In short, no, pickleball is not currently an Olympic sport. And it does not appear to be on track to become one in the near future.
How are sports selected for the Olympic games?
According to the Olympic Charter, a sport may not be added to the Olympic program unless there are a sufficient number of active countries. As FiveThirtyEight explains:
“Until 2007, the IOC stipulated that a sport must be “widely practiced” to earn a place in the official Olympic program. When the concept was first articulated in 1949, the requirement was that at least 10 countries actively participated in the sport. In 2004, the last time the requirement was enforced, men’s sports had to have been active in at least 75 countries and four continents for inclusion in the Summer Olympics, while women’s sports needed to be active in 40 countries and three continents; for inclusion in the Winter Olympics, both men’s and women’s sports had to be active in at least 25 countries and three continents.”
How many countries is pickleball played in?
This is where pickleball still has a lot of room to grow. The International Federation of Pickleball has only 58 member countries, falling short of the IOC guidelines for the men’s program. While this would satisfy the requirements for the women’s game, it seems unlikely that the IOC would approve the sport for one gender and not the other.
Pickleball players need to do more to export the sport around the world. According to USA Pickleball, “Pickleball grew in 2020 to 4.2 million players in the US, an incredible growth rate of 21.3% from 2019.” That organization has 37,000 members, a strong core group of athletes who could (potentially) play in the Olympics one day. When you start to see those numbers in other countries around the world, that’s when you can expect to see pickleball athletes at the Olympic games.
Photo by Joan Azeka on Unsplash