How does a sport transition into the Olympics? What are the qualifications? Is there a process?
From the official site:
To make it onto the Olympic programme, a sport first has to be recognised: it must be administered by an International Federation which ensures that the sport's activities follow the Olympic Charter. If it is widely practised around the world and meets a number of criteria established by the IOC session, a recognised sport may be added to the Olympic programme on the recommendation of the IOC's Olympic Programme Commission.
According to Chapter 5, Section III of the Olympic charter [pdf], every edition of the Olympics must include all "core" sports. These core sports are chosen by the Session upon proposal by the IOC Executive Board. In the summer, they must include at least 25 of the sports governed by the following 28 federations:
- International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF)
- International Rowing Federation (FISA)
- Badminton World Federation (BWF)
- International Baseball Federation (IBAF)
- International Basketball Federation (FIBA)
- International Boxing Association (AIBA)
- International Canoe Federation (ICF)
- International Cycling Union (UCI)
- International Equestrian Federation (FEI)
- International Fencing Federation (FIE)
- International Association Football Federation (FIFA)
- International Gymnastic Federation (FIG)
- International Weightlifting Federation (IWF)
- International Handball Federation (IHF)
- International Hockey Federation (FIH)
- International Judo Federation (IJF)
- International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA)
- International Swimming Federation (FINA)
- International Union of the Modern Pentathlon (UIPM)
- International Softball Federation (ISF)
- World Taekwondo Federation (WTF)
- International Tennis Federation (ITF)
- International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF)
- International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF)
- World Archery Federation (WA)
- International Triathlon Union (ITU)
- International Sailing Federation (ISAF)
- International Volleyball Federation (FIVB)
All of these except baseball and softball are currently part of the core.
In winter, the core includes only the sports governed by the following seven federations:
- International Biathlon Union (IBU)
- International Bobsleigh and Tobogganing Federation (FIBT)
- World Curling Federation (WCF)
- International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF)
- International Luge Federation (FIL)
- International Skating Union (ISU)
- International Ski Federation (FIS)
The Olympic Committee also recognizes a number of other sports; the committee session at which the host city is selected can also specify that some of these sports are to be included in that edition of the games, but only up to a maximum of 28 sports (which gives quite a bit of leeway in the winter games).
For a sport's governing body to be recognized and hence be eligible for inclusion in the games, it must be in compliance with the World Anti-Doping Code; but the final decision rests solely with the committee as determined by a vote.
Baseball and softball have been removed from the games as of the 2012 edition; this opens up two slots. Those slots will be filled by golf and rugby sevens in the 2016 games, bringing the total back to the maximum 28. Golf and rugby are not, however, part of the core, so they could be dropped as early as the 2020 games.
"Softball, baseball, karate, squash, roller sports, wushu, wakeboard and sports climbing: one of these sports could be included on the sports programme of the 2020 Games. The decision will be made at the 125th IOC Session in Buenos Aires in 2013. This list was approved by the Executive Board before the 123rd IOC Session held in Durban, South Africa, in July 2011."