Boccia is a target sport that tests muscle control and accuracy, demanding extreme skill and concentration at the highest level.
Believed to have Ancient Greek origins, Boccia is a tough test of nerve, tactics and skill. Played on a rectangular court by individuals, pairs and teams, the sport offers both tension and excitement, as athletes aim to land balls close to a target ball, across a series of demanding ends. The sport is similar to boules or petanque.
Sunday 2 – Saturday 8 September
Number of competitors
104 – men and women compete together.
Each country is limited to one team in each Team event (three athletes). In the Individual events an athlete competes against an opponent with the same classification and for the Pairs events two athletes are paired together.
BC1 – athletes may have an assistant to perform actions such as handing them the Boccia balls.
BC2 – athletes require no assistance on court.
BC3 – athletes deliver each ball by using a ramp and have a sports assistant who they instruct to position the ramp for each delivery.
BC4 – athletes often use an underhand pendulum swing to release the ball.
Number of medal events
Seven: Individual, Pairs and Team events across a number of classifications.
Field of play
Boccia is played on a court that is 12.5m long and 6m wide, with throwing boxes measuring 2.5m x 1m.
History of Boccia at the Paralympics
Boccia was introduced to the Paralympic programme at the New York and Stoke Mandeville 1984 Games. Today the sport is currently played competitively in more than 50 countries worldwide.
The aim of the sport is to propel balls so they finish as close as possible to a special white target ball, known as the jack. Each player, pair or team gets six balls during each phase of a match, called an ‘end’. At the close of each end, the athlete, pair or team whose ball is closest to the jack scores one point, and receives an additional point for every ball that sits closer to the jack than the opposition’s closest ball. Individual and Pairs matches consist of four ends, while Team events are held over six ends.
Boccia is played by wheelchair athletes with cerebral palsy and related locomotor conditions, with players required to be in a seated position within a throwing box at one end of the playing court. The classification system ensures an even playing field for athletes to compete against others with similar disabilities.
For a complete set of rules, please refer to the website of the Cerebral Palsy International Sports and Recreation Association (or CPISRA), governing body for the sport.
In the Individual event seeding matches determine the draw, with the event then held as a straight knockout. The Pairs event starts with a group stage: two pools of four teams, with the top two teams in each pool (total four teams) progressing to the knockout stage. The Team event starts with four pools of three teams, with the top two teams in each pool (total eight teams) progressing through to the knockout stage.
Boccia is overseen by a referee who ensures that all rules and regulations are adhered to, and who measures the distance of the balls from the jack to determine the winner.
Keys to success
Boccia is a game of immense skill, judgement and concentration, and can be won or lost on the smallest of measurements. The winning athletes will have to maintain their levels of peak performance over a number of days and sessions.
Breaking the rules
Teams and players can be penalised for a variety of infringements, each having a potentially crucial result on the game. There are three forms of penalty:
- a penalty, generally awarded for positioning and turn-taking violations, results in two extra balls being awarded to the opposition;
- a retraction, when a thrown ball does not count and is removed; and
- a warning (yellow card), for serious and deliberate disruption.
A second warning results in disqualification.
Court: The playing area, measuring 12.5m x 6m.
End: A passage of play that features six balls per athlete, pair or team.
Jack: The white target ball; competitors aim to land their balls as close to the jack as possible.
If you want to find out about Boccia in your country, including clubs, facilities and coaching schemes, check the website of your National Governing Body for Boccia. To find out how you can get involved in Boccia in the UK, go to thegamesandbeyond.com
For more information on the Boccia competition at London 2012 and the rules of the sport, go to the website of the Cerebral Palsy International Sports and Recreation Association (CPISRA), governing body for the sport.