Olympics 2021: Comparing Every Sports Ball

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The Briefing

  • Table tennis has the smallest sports ball used in the Tokyo Olympics at just 4cm in diameter and 2.7g in weight.
  • The biggest by size is the basketball at 24.35cm in diameter, but the shot is more than 10 times heavier at 7.26kg.

Olympics 2021: Comparing Every Sports Ball

It might be strange having the Olympics in 2021 (an odd year), but 2020 was anything but normal.

After facing a 12-month delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo are set to kick off from July 23 to August 8.

In addition to hosting traditional sports like running and aquatics, some sports are being introduced for the first time (karate, skateboarding) or returning after an absence (baseball).

One thing that many Olympic sports share in common? There are 17 different sports that use balls or spheres of some sort, ranging in size and weight. Here are the different balls used in the Tokyo Olympics.

Olympic Sports Balls by Size and Weight

The 2021 Olympics, which are still officially called the 2020 Olympics to keep the four-year cycle and branding consistent, are hosting 339 events across 33 different sports.

17 of those sports use balls or spheres. The official sizes and weights vary from a small diameter of 4cm for table tennis to the largest ball, a basketball with a diameter of 24.35cm.

Sport Diameter Weight
Table Tennis 4.00cm 2.7g
Golf 4.27cm 45.93g
Tennis 6.70cm 57.7g
Field Hockey 7.48cm 163g
Baseball 7.50cm 149g
Softball 9.55cm 177g
Shot Put 12.00cm 7,260g
Handball (Women’s) 17.51cm 350g
Handball (Men’s) 18.78cm 450g
Rhythmic Gymnastics 19.00cm 400g
Volleyball 21.01cm 270g
Water Polo (Women’s) 21.01cm 425g
Beach Volleyball 21.33cm 270g
Soccer 21.96cm 432.5g
Water Polo (Men’s) 22.28cm 425g
Basketball (Women’s) 23.24cm 538g
Basketball (Men’s) 24.35cm 608g

Even within the same categories of sports, balls have different size and weight rules based on event or gender. Water polo, handball, and basketball all have slight variations of a few centimeters in diameter and up to 100g in weight for different gender events.

But sorting the balls by weight shows that the shot is far and away the heaviest. At 7.26kg, the shot is more than 10 times heavier than a basketball. That’s because while most sporting balls are made of light material filled with air, shots are typically constructed entirely of metal.

Where does this data come from?

Source: Wired, Official Sport Rulebooks.

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