Is Pickleball an Olympic Sport? Hit Your Doubts


As the pickleball craze continues to sweep across the globe, many are left wondering: Is pickleball on the verge of Olympic glory? 

In this article, we’ll explore the intriguing question of whether pickleball is destined for the grand stage of the Olympics, addressing doubts and shedding light on the sport’s journey towards international recognition. 

Join us as we delve into the exciting world of pickleball and uncover the possibilities that lie ahead for this dynamic and fast-paced game.

What is Pickleball and How is it Played?

Pickleball was invented in 1965 on Bainbridge Island, Washington, by three friends who wanted to create a game for their families to play. They used a badminton court, lowered the net, and used ping-pong paddles and a wiffle ball. They named the game after their dog, Pickles, who loved to chase the ball. The game soon spread to other communities and became popular among people of all ages and backgrounds.

The rules of pickleball are simple and easy to learn. The game is played on a court that is 20 feet wide and 44 feet long, divided by a 34-inch-high net. The court has a 7-foot non-volley zone (also known as the kitchen) on each side of the net, where players cannot hit the ball in the air. The ball must bounce once before it can be hit by either team.

The serve is made underhand from behind the baseline, and must land in the opposite diagonal service court. Only the serving team can score points, and the game is won by the first team to reach 11 points, with a two-point margin.

The equipment used in pickleball is similar to other racket sports, but with some differences. The paddle is larger than a ping-pong paddle, but smaller than a tennis racket. It can be made of wood, composite, or graphite. 

The ball is a hollow plastic ball with holes, similar to a wiffle ball. It is slightly larger than a tennis ball, but lighter and less bouncy. The ball can be either indoor or outdoor, depending on the playing surface.

The History and Popularity of Pickleball in the US and Around the World

Pickleball has grown significantly since its inception over 50 years ago. It has been recognized as an official sport by several countries around the world and was included in the Pan American Games for the first time in 2019. In 2022, pickleball was named the official state sport of Washington, where it originated.

Pickleball is mostly played in North America, with official courts in every US state and Canadian province. However, pickleball is also gaining popularity in other regions, such as Europe, Asia, Australia, and South America. According to the International Federation of Pickleball (IFP), there are over 40 member countries and more than 4.8 million players worldwide.

The growing popularity of pickleball can be attributed to several factors, such as its short learning curve, its appeal to a wide range of ages and fitness levels, its low startup costs, and its social and health benefits.  

As Elvin A. Spears from BeBallPlayers points out, pickleball’s accessibility is a huge draw – he recommends it as a great family activity that encourages multi-generational play. Spears also advocates for the construction of more dedicated pickleball courts and facilities to meet the sport’s rapid growth. 

Pickleball is a sport that anyone can play and enjoy, regardless of their background, experience, or ability. It is also a sport that fosters friendship, community, and wellness among its players.

The Criteria and Process for a Sport to Join the Olympics

The Olympics are the ultimate stage for any sport to showcase its excellence and attract global attention. However, not every sport can make it to the Olympics. There are specific criteria and processes that a sport must meet and follow in order to be considered for inclusion in the Olympic program.

According to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the main criteria for a sport to join the Olympics are: 

  • The sport must be widely practiced by men in at least 75 countries and on four continents, and by women in at least 40 countries and on three continents.
  • The sport must have a recognized international federation that governs the sport and ensures its compliance with the Olympic Charter and the World Anti-Doping Code.
  • The sport must have a competitive structure and a ranking system that reflects the relative performance and skill of the athletes.
  • The sport must have a youth development program that promotes the participation and development of young athletes.
  • The sport must have a positive image and contribute to the Olympic values of excellence, friendship, and respect.

The process for a sport to join the Olympics is as follows: 4

  • The sport must apply for recognition by the IOC, which involves submitting a detailed application and undergoing a review by the IOC Sports Department.
  • The sport must be recognized by the IOC, which involves a vote by the IOC Session, the supreme decision-making body of the IOC.
  • The sport must apply for inclusion in the Olympic program, which involves submitting a proposal and undergoing an evaluation by the Olympic Program Commission.
  • The sport must be approved for inclusion in the Olympic program, which involves a vote by the IOC Session, based on the recommendation of the Olympic Program Commission and the IOC Executive Board.
  • The process for a sport to join the Olympics can take several years, and there is no guarantee that a sport will be accepted. The IOC has the final say on which sports are included in the Olympic program, and can also remove or modify existing sports.

The Challenges and Opportunities for Pickleball to Become an Olympic Sport

Pickleball is a relatively young and emerging sport, compared to other Olympic sports that have decades or centuries of history and tradition. As such, pickleball faces some challenges and opportunities in its quest to become an Olympic sport, such as:

  • The recognition and representation of the sport, meaning how well it is known and accepted by the general public, the media, and the Olympic movement. Pickleball needs to increase its visibility and credibility as a sport, by expanding its participation and fan base, improving its media coverage and exposure, and strengthening its relationship with the IOC and other Olympic stakeholders.
  • The development and regulation of the sport, meaning how well it is organized and governed by its international federation, and how it maintains its standards and quality. Pickleball needs to enhance its structure and administration, by establishing clear and consistent rules and regulations, developing and implementing effective anti-doping and anti-corruption policies, and providing adequate training and education for its players, coaches, officials, and volunteers.
  • The innovation and adaptation of the sport, meaning how well it evolves and responds to the changing needs and expectations of the Olympic program, and how it leverages its unique features and advantages. Pickleball needs to demonstrate its added value and appeal as a sport, by showcasing its fast-paced and dynamic gameplay, highlighting its social and inclusive nature, and embracing its diversity and creativity.

The Future Prospects of Pickleball in the 2024, 2028, and Beyond Olympics

Pickleball is not yet an Olympic sport, but it has the potential to become one in the future. The sport has been growing rapidly in popularity and recognition, both in the US and around the world. It has also been gaining support and endorsement from various organizations and individuals, including some Olympic athletes and celebrities.

The next opportunity for pickleball to join the Olympics is the 2024 Paris Olympics, which will feature four new sports: breakdancing, surfing, skateboarding, and sport climbing. However, the chances of pickleball being included in the 2024 Olympics are slim, as the host city has already submitted its proposal and the IOC has already approved it. Moreover, pickleball does not meet the criteria of universality, as it is not widely played or followed in Europe, especially in France.

A more realistic and hopeful scenario for pickleball is the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics, which will be held in the US, where the sport originated and is most popular. The host city has the option of proposing new sports for its edition of the games, and pickleball could be a strong candidate, given its relevance and popularity in the local context. Pickleball could also benefit from the proximity and influence of the USAPA, the IFP, and the PPA, which are all based in the US.

Beyond 2028, pickleball could have more opportunities to join the Olympics, as the sport continues to grow and develop globally. Pickleball could also appeal to the IOC’s vision of making the Olympics more youthful, urban, and diverse, as well as more sustainable and adaptable. Pickleball could also align with the IOC’s mission of promoting peace, friendship, and solidarity, as well as health, education, and culture, through sport.

Well, That’s a Wrap

In conclusion, the question of whether pickleball will become an Olympic sport is one that resonates with the fervent hopes of its dedicated community. While the journey to Olympic recognition may have its challenges, the growing popularity and unique appeal of pickleball make it a strong contender for inclusion in future Games. 

Whether or not pickleball ascends to the Olympic stage, its enthusiasts will undoubtedly continue to champion the sport, fostering its growth and ensuring its place in the global athletic landscape. 

As we eagerly await the unfolding chapters of pickleball’s story, one thing remains certain – the spirit of this engaging game will continue to thrive, leaving an indelible mark on the world of sports.