The game of Boccia is one of the many sports included in the Special Olympics and is played by those with very severe physical disabilities. The sport is similar to bowls and is played at local, national and international levels. There is no discrimination between the sexes and all events are mixed gender; played individually, in pairs or in teams of three. Competitions are classified according to the severity of the participants' disabilities.
Leather balls of various grades of hardness and softness are used; one team playing with red and the other with blue. The balls are a little larger than a tennis ball at 270mm in circumference and weight 275 grams. The idea is to throw the balls as close as possible to a white ball, called the 'jack'. As in traditional bowls, the jack is thrown to start then the first two team balls are played. Then, the side furthest away from the jack throws next to either get closer to it or to displace the opposing player's ball. The game continues thus until both sides have played all their balls. Balls can be played using either the hands, feet or, should the players' disability dictate, an assistive aid such as a ramp may be used.
At the conclusion of each 'end', one point is awarded for each ball closest to the jack. The winning player or team is the one with the highest number of points after all the ends have been completed. In the event of a tie at this point, an additional deciding end is played. Individual competitions play four ends with six balls per player per end. Pairs play four ends with three balls per player being played and teams play six ends with two balls per player being played. In pair and team games, one substation per team is allowed and this must be made between ends.
A Boccia court measures 12.5m x 6m and a 2m empty border surrounding it. The court surface must be smooth and flat and is divided into six throwing boxes. Also on the court is a V shaped line. The jack must be thrown across this line in order for the throw to count. Players must remain within the throwing boxes during play. If balls are thrown outside of the time limit, thrown out of bounds or some other rule violation occurs the ball is placed in the 'dead ball container' situated at the end of the court. A cross is marked on the court to indicate where the jack must be placed in the event it goes out of bounds, touches the boundary line or if there is a tie break situation.
The game demands a high level of skill and accuracy and presents a particular challenge for those with really severe disabilities.