Rules and Classification
What is it?
Boccia is a sport which is similar to games such as bowls and pétanque. The sport has been specially adapted for athletes with a disability. The aim of all these games is for athletes to get a number of balls as near as possible to a target ball.
Who can participate in Boccia at the Paralympic Games?
Boccia is open to athletes with cerebral palsy and other conditions that affect muscle control and movement. All athletes compete in a wheelchair.
There are four classifications:
BC1: athletes with cerebral palsy who can project the ball with minor assistance.
BC2: athletes with cerebral palsy who do not need assistance.
BC3: athletes with severe cerebral palsy who need to use a ramp.
BC4: athletes who have a condition other than cerebral palsy.
How is it played?
- Athletes propel the ball towards a white target ball, known as the ‘jack’.
- The closest ball to the jack wins.
- Men and women compete together in team, pairs and individual events.
- Each match has a number of different stages called ‘ends’.
- Each player, pair or team gets six balls in each end.
- Individual and pairs matches have four ends.
- Team events have six ends.
- When each ‘end’ is finished, the athlete (or pair or team) whose ball is closest to the jack scores one point.
- The athlete also receives another point for every ball that is nearer to the jack than the opposition’s closest ball.
Practice makes perfect
You might not have heard of Boccia but they have in Portugal. It is the only country to have won medals in Boccia at every Paralympic Games since the sport was introduced in 1984. Since then the Portuguese have won 8 gold medals, 9 silver medals and 5 bronze medals.
In France and Italy it is common to see games similar to Boccia, such as boule and bocce, played in any open space in villages and towns. In the United Kingdom and Commonwealth countries lawn bowls clubs are common. In Portugal, however, games of this type are traditionally not so popular, so why has Portugal had so much success in Boccia at the Paralympic Games?
One theory is based on the old saying “success breeds success”. Boccia was only introduced into the country in 1983, and yet the following year Portugal won the mixed team event at the Paralympic Games in New York.
Soon afterwards Boccia began to be introduced into physical education classes. Exhibition games were held in many places throughout the country. The game has continued to grow in popularity and nowadays it is one of the most popular Paralympic sports in Portugal.