Boules sports struggle to get over their tie-ins with Gaulish culture. The smoking and beret-totting players in town squares all over France hardly portray the modern and athletic games that have evolved over recent years. Exceptional concentration and physical fitness are paramount in today’s boules sports. And both are found outside of the Mediterranean basin too. National teams from Madagascar, Thailand, China and Brazil each won medals in Pétanque, Boule Lyonnaise and Raffa at The World Games already.
Countries around the northwestern Mediterranean basin – the area which saw the emergence and the early development of boules sports – feature still the highest density of people practicing boules sports: 20 millions in France and Italy alone. Well over two million players are licensed in 150 other countries on all continents, with the most significant growth rates currently recorded in South America and Asia.
Boules Sport features in The World Games 2013; check the event calendar for details about when it is scheduled.
DID YOU KNOW THAT...?
Precision and stamina ...
In Boule Lyonnaise's Progressive Shuttle Throw, the most physically exerting of all events, the athletes run from one end of the 27,5-meter court to the other, each time picking up a bowl, taking aim and delivering a precision throw at the target on the opposite end. Again and again – over five gruelling minutes!
The common denominator ...
All boules sports have in common that bowls, "boules" in French, are being used to play. These are either made of metal, small (diameter of 8 cm, 800 grams) in size for Pétanque and somewhat bigger for Boule, or of a synthetic material for Raffa. They also share that a considerably smaller bowl – the but, the jack or "cochonnet", French for piglet – is used as the target. Some other fundamentals are common to all games too.
The Point , the throwing action in placing one's bowl as close as possible to the jack, is performed from a poised position, with both feet firmly placed inside a small circle in Pétanque or in a wider stance in Boule and Raffa.
The Shot, the action of hurtling one's bowl at that of an opponent in order to clear it out of the way, is performed after a few running strides in Boule and Raffa – or from a stationary position within the thrower's circle in Pétanque.
The Terrain, sport bowls' field of play, is flat, smooth and clearly marked for Boule and Raffa, while in Pétanque it tends to be less defined, shorter and more uneven.
Competitive history ...
Despite the game's popularity throughout the the Middle Ages, it was not until the beginning of the 20th century that diverse rules began to emerge and govern the different bowling games: Boule Lyonnaise, Pétanque, Raffa and even Lawn Bowls.The governing bodies for the altogether four different disciplines boules sports are gathered in the World Confederation of Boules Sports - CMSB.
In Boule Lyonnaise alone, over 300 World and Continental Championships have been staged in men's, women's and junior divisions to date. And there is continuous evolution. The traditional events in singles, doubles and triples have been complemented with newer events such as the Precision Throw, the ultimate test of a player's qualities in accuracy, and the Progressive Shuttle Throw, the most athletic variation to the game.