Brief History of Bocce
How It All Started
Bocce was introduced in Australia by European migrants in the early 1900s.
The origins of bocce are believed to date back to 9000 BC where stone bowls were found in Turkey. Traces have also been found dating back to the time of the Pharaohs. In fact, a game similar to bocce was was played in ancient Greece and during the middle ages. From the early Greek physician Hippocrates to the great Italian Renaissance man Galileo, the early participants of bocce have noted that the game’s athleticism and spirit of competition rejuvenates the body. Bocce enjoyed rapid growth throughout Europe and became the sport of nobility and peasants alike. According to legend, Sir Francis Drake refused to set out to defend England against the Spanish Armada until he finished a game of bocce. He proclaimed, “First we finish the game, then we’ll deal with the Armada!”. By the 1800s, bocce was played across the north of Italy and in other European countries like France, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Belgium, Germany, Slovenia, Istria Croatia and Bosnia. In Italy, men played bocce at the back of ‘Osterias’ and along the back streets. In the mid 1800s, Italy was unstable. The two Giuseppe Garibaldi’s and Mazzini led the ‘red shirts’ across the country in a bit to unify the Italian speaking people. It was during this period that many northern Italians started immigrating to places like Australia and America, taking the game of bocce with them.
Bocce (sport-boules) is a bowls sport for all sport lovers and levels of fitness. It is played both at a competitive level and recreational level, and can be played in singles or in teams of up to 4 players. Bocce is played competitively throughout the world with over 50 countries being members of the F.I.B (Bocce Volo). Regular World Championships for men, women and juniors are held annually. It is also played at the Para Olympics, Special Olympics, World, Mediterranean and South East Asian Games. Bocce is a lifetime sport and can be played anywhere by anyone at a social level.
Different countries around the world have their own version of bocce. It is played with various rules and on different surfaces, although the basic aim of the sport remains the same. An interest for competition between countries grew, so did the need for uniform rules. In 1946 the French, Italian, Swiss and Monegasque Federations formed the Federation International de Boules (F.I.B) and international competition was born. In 1985, the Confederation Mondiale des Sport Boules (C.M.S.B) was formed to include all forms of the game. The C.M.S.B consists of 4 international federations, F.I.P.J.P (Pentanque), C.B.I (Bocce Raffa), World Bowls (Lawn Bowls), and F.I.B (Bocce Volo), with the F.I.B being the oldest of the 4. The C.M.S.B was recognised by the International Olympic Committee (I.O.C) in 1986, known as sport-boules. Competitive bocce has a long history with the formation of the French Federation in 1888 and the Italian Federation in 1919. But socially, bocce has been played on the streets and in the parks for centuries before this. There are two main forms of competitive bocce, Volo and Raffa. Volo is played competitively in Australia and in the most modernised form of the game with its technical throwing events involving a high level of fitness. Professional levels of the sport are played in European countries.