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Pickleball Will Need to Look to 2032 & Beyond for Olympic Consideration

News Stacie Townsend 10-16-2023

One of the most common questions pickleball players have is: When will pickleball be in the Olympics? This Olympic aspiration is common with various sport enthusiasts—like pickleball players—as being included in the Olympics can lead to the massive benefits for their respective sport, such as:

  • Global Exposure: The Olympic Games are one of the most-watched and most-followed sporting events worldwide. Being part of the Olympics provides sports like pickleball with unprecedented global exposure and a broad audience. This can lead to increased interest, participation (at all levels—from youth to amateur to professional), and support for the sport at all levels.
  • Prestige and Recognition: Olympic inclusion bestows a sense of prestige and recognition upon a sport. It signifies that the sport has achieved a certain level of competitiveness, organization, and international appeal. Athletes in Olympic sports often gain enhanced respect and status.
  • Funding and Support: Olympic status can open doors to increased funding and support from government agencies, national Olympic committees, and private sponsors. These resources can be essential for athlete development, infrastructure, facilities, and grassroots programs, further enhancing a sport’s development.

These are obviously some series benefits that help continue to fuel the growth of pickleball. However, pickleball will need to continue to grow and wait its turn, as pickleball was not on the slate of potential sports for the upcoming 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, California. Rather, the International Olympic Committee executive board approved cricket, baseball/softball, flag football, lacrosse, and a fellow racquet sport in squash.

Although you may be scratching your head on the inclusion of certain of these sports (like flag football), most of these sports have been long at work vying for Olympic consideration.

  • Cricket was featured in the 1900 Olympic Games.
  • Baseball/softball has had an “on again, off again” relationship with the Olympics, beginning in 1996 (and has been absent in the 2012, 2016, and 2024 Olympic Games).
  • Flag football was a demonstration sport in the 1904 and 1932 Olympic Games.
  • Lacrosse was in the 1904 and 1908 Olympic Games, as well as a demonstration sport in three others.
  • Squash has never featured in the Olympics (but has been vying for (and failed) Olympic consideration for many years—including being passed up in 2024 by sports like surfing and breakdancing).

With the growing popularity of pickleball, many pickleball players are surprised to see it passed up for these other sports. But, again, not only was pickleball not selected, it was not even on the list to be selected. Why is this? In other words, what does it take to be an Olympic sport?

To be eligible for the Olympics, a sport must “comply with the Olympic Charter, the World Anti-Doping Code and the Olympic Movement Code on the Prevention of the Manipulation of Competition.” One key component of this is the Olympic Charter, which provides that “a sport must be widely practiced by men in at least 75 countries and on four continents and by women in no fewer than 40 countries and on three continents.” 

Pickleball has yet to reach this threshold. As a result, pickleball is not even in the conversation for Olympic consideration yet (although, maybe there is still a possibility of a demonstration/exhibition sport to garner some popularity in LA).

With that said, maybe the next four-year cycle will bring a different status for the sport of pickleball. With four more years of growth, pickleball may be able to meet these requirements to be eligible for Olympic consideration. Until then, pickleball will need to wait and continue to grow in order to meet this highly coveted goal for many sports. Pickleball will need to look to 2032 and beyond…

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