Pickleball is not in the Olympics yet, but here is how it gets there…

In the realm of sports, few stages can rival the grandeur and prestige of the Olympic Games. Every four years, athletes from around the globe gather to compete in a spectacle of human achievement. But how does a sport earn the esteemed honor of inclusion in this illustrious event? The journey from obscurity to Olympic recognition is a fascinating tale of determination, passion, and international cooperation.


The Criteria for Inclusion

The process of adding a new sport to the Olympic program is rigorous and multifaceted. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) oversees this process, relying on a set of criteria to evaluate potential additions. These criteria include:

1. Popularity: A sport must have a significant following and be practiced by men and women in multiple countries across various continents. Its been cited that a sport needs competitive players in at least 75 other countries in order to be included in the Olympics. Currently the International Pickleball Federation has 77 member nations, which is great step towards Olympic-level pickleball.

2. Global Reach: The sport should have international governing bodies that oversee its regulation and development on a global scale. As mentioned above, the International Pickleball Federation has taken on the role of world governing body for the sport of pickleball.

3. Gender Equity: The IOC emphasizes gender equality in the Olympic program, striving to ensure that both men and women have opportunities to compete.

4. Youth Appeal: The IOC also considers the sport's appeal to younger generations, recognizing the importance of engaging youth in the Olympic movement.

5. Financial Stability: The governing body must demonstrate financial stability and the sport’s potential for revenue generation.

6. Ethical Standards: The sport must adhere to the Olympic Charter's principles of fair play, integrity, and respect for the Olympic values.

7. Drug Testing Compliance: It must have stringent anti-doping regulations in place.

8. Venue and Logistics Feasibility: The sport must be feasible to host within the existing Olympic venues or with minimal modifications.

9. Historical and Cultural Significance: The sport should have a significant history and cultural impact globally.


The Road to Recognition

For a sport seeking Olympic inclusion, the journey is often long and arduous. It typically begins with the sport's international federation submitting an application to the IOC, outlining its case for inclusion. The federation must demonstrate the sport's global reach, competitive structure, and adherence to Olympic principles.

Once the application is submitted, the IOC's Executive Board reviews the proposal and assesses its compatibility with the aforementioned criteria. If the board approves the application, the sport may be provisionally included in the Olympic program, allowing athletes to compete in Olympic qualifying events.


Trials and Tribulations

Even after provisional inclusion, a sport's Olympic journey is far from guaranteed. It must undergo a trial period, during which it is evaluated based on its performance in Olympic competition, its ability to attract viewership and sponsorship, and its impact on the overall Olympic experience.

Throughout this trial period, the sport's international federation works closely with the IOC to address any concerns and ensure that the sport meets the highest standards of competition and governance. If the sport successfully navigates this trial period, it may be granted full Olympic status, cementing its place in the Games for years to come.


Recently Added Sports

Ultimately, the inclusion of a new sport in the Olympic program is a testament to the power of sport to unite nations, inspire individuals, and transcend cultural boundaries. It represents the culmination of years of hard work, dedication, and collaboration among athletes, officials, and fans worldwide. In 2020, surfing, sport climbing, skateboarding and karate were added to the Olympics and in 2024, break dancing will make its Olympic debut. As we look ahead to future Olympic Games, we can anticipate the addition of new sports that reflect the ever-changing landscape of athletic competition.


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