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Padel weighs up the Olympic challenge

In the midst of a popularity boom and global expansion, the possibility has been raised that the racquet sport could appear in the Olympic Games.

For padel to be an Olympic sport, it must be widely practised (in at least 75 countries on four continents) and be accepted by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), seven years before the Olympic Games (OG).

In Rio 2016, Tokyo 2020 and Paris 2024 new disciplines have entered to the detriment of others that have stagnated.

Today, very few can dispute that padel is one of the sports that has grown the most in the last five years. Moreover, there are many who say that we are in the middle of a boom for the racquet sport. Its worldwide expansion is simply fact.

Its impact is becoming so remarkable that many of its practitioners wonder when the sport will receive the Olympic Charter. It is a major challenge that is subtly beginning to take shape in the four corners of the glass box.

International impact

After just over 50 years, padel is on its way to becoming a global phenomenon.

In Spain, it is widely viewed and has its own channel, but its internationalisation is booming.

The game is televised in ten countries (Spain, Argentina, Brazil, Italy, Belgium, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland) on five television platforms (Nordic Group, Sky Italia, Eurosport, GolTV and ESPN Brazil) and its impact on social networks is close to two million (1,819,520) followers.

In five years, the World Padel Tour has gone from hundreds of spectators in its matches, gathered with great difficulty, to completely filling the Palau Sant Jordi (10,000 people).

The number of registered players in Spain rose from 39,700 in 2012 to almost 76,000 by the end of 2019. Sales of padel equipment have experienced an increase of more than 200%, and the number of courts, both public and private, has reached 1,800 nationwide in Spain.

What is the Olympic Charter?

The Olympic Charter is the code that governs the Olympic Movement. It is the basis of its fundamental principles, rules and statutes, and establishes the necessary conditions for the holding of the Olympic Games.

The first edition of this manifesto dates back to 1908 under the name of “Annuaire du Comité International Olympique”. In 1978, it was renamed the Olympic Charter, a name that remains in use today.

The Charter consists of five chapters and 61 articles that have, broadly, three purposes.

To establish the principles and values of Olympism, set out the role of the CEO, and act as a document that contains the rights and obligations of all the constituent bodies of the Olympic Movement.

Olympic requirements

To receive the Olympic Charter, a sport must be widely practised in a minimum of 75 countries and four continents for men and in a minimum of 40 countries and three continents for women.

In addition, the World Anti-Doping Code must be adopted and correctly applied. Today, practically all sports adopt and apply this code in full.

It must also be accepted at least seven years before an Olympic Games begins. That is to say, padel could arrive for the 2028 Olympics if the International Olympic Committee (IOC) gives it the green light in October of this year. Otherwise, it cannot be an Olympic sport until 2032.

In recent times, the IOC has introduced an additional rule limiting the number of sports at the games to 28 and the number of athletes to 10,500.

As a result, for a new sport to be added to the games, it must first wait for the departure of one of the sports currently in the Olympic program.

New sports

However, if padel maintains the growth rate of the last decade, it has every chance of receiving the Charter in the near future.

In fact, the International Olympic Committee has been innovating for years, testing new disciplines and modifying the Olympic program.

In the London 2012 Olympic Games, for example, baseball and softball disappeared.

Two new sports, golf and rugby sevens, were incorporated into the program at the Rio de Janeiro Games (2016) and were accepted during the 121st session of the IOC in October 2009.

For Tokyo 2020, 26 international federations submitted their applications to the Organising Committee. Of those, baseball, softball, bowling, karate, skating, climbing, squash, surfing and wushu (a contact sport derived from Chinese martial arts) were shortlisted.

Ultimately this year, surfing, skateboarding, rock climbing and karate will make their Olympic debuts. In addition, baseball returns to the program and softball and basketball will have a new category, the street 3 × 3.

Karate will have the shortest run, as the Paris 2024 Organising Committee has decided not to include it in its program. Another legendary event, the 50-kilometer walk, has also been left out.

The addition of breakdancing to the gala event has been one of the most controversial decisions. Its detractors consider it a form of dance and not a sport.

Furthermore, it makes its debut directly in the competition without first appearing as an exhibition sport in previous games, which is an interesting precedent from the perspective of padel.

Parity in Paris

The IOC has decided to reduce the number of athletes to 10,500 by 2024. The same goes for officers and personnel, with the aim of making it more practical logistically.

According to President Thomas Bach, there will be approximately one thousand fewer people in Paris than at the Japanese event.

There will also be fewer events: from 339 to 329, with weightlifting and boxing being the most affected after eliminating or merging different classes and weights.

The Paris games will also be the first to boast of absolute gender parity, with 50% male events and 50% female, in addition to an increase in mixed events from 18 to 22.

In terms of individual sports, there will be the same number of men and women in athletics, boxing, and cycling.

In this regard, padel has already come a long way.

In 2018, the new management of the World Padel Tour and the Players Collective signed a new agreement, which runs until 2023 and begins the movement towards full and absolute equality in terms of the prize offerings for men and women.

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