The nation of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines may be home to just 100,000 people, but that isn’t stopping it from sending a bocce team to the United Arab Emirates to compete at the 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Abu Dhabi.
In 2015, the tiny Caribbean nation returned to the World Summer Games in Los Angeles after a 10-year absence to win silver in the sport of bocce. This time, they are out for gold with the support of portable bocce courts from Packaworld International.
Special Olympics Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has purchased competition and recreation-sized ‘Packabocce’ courts to aid their bocce team’s training efforts for the World Summer Games and help them increase participation in the sport of bocce across the nation’s nine inhabited islands.
Special Olympics Saint Vincent and the Grenadines National Director Sezevra Joseph said the lightweight portable courts were high quality, and much easier to transport and set up than the improvised wooden and concrete courts local athletes had used in the past.
“The first time we ran a bocce session using the courts, our athletes were amazed to see bocce courts inflate in minutes. They had a great time.”
Ms Joseph said Special Olympics St Vincent and the Grenadines planned to use the courts to introduce bocce at local schools. The new inflatable ‘Packabocce’ courts could also be set up indoors, allowing people to train year-round, regardless of the weather, she said.
Bocce is an ancient Italian sport similar to petanque but played within a walled court. It is one of the most popular sports in Special Olympics worldwide, but it can be problematic to offer in some locations because conventional courts built from wood or concrete often cannot be transported and set up and are difficult for athletes with mobility issues to enter.
Packabocce courts are inflatable, lightweight and easy to transport while offering athletes the real-game playing experience. Competition size courts were used as the court of choice for the Latin American and Asia Pacific regional Special Olympics tournaments. They are designed for competitive play and include an access gate for the mobility impaired to enter.
Packaworld’s recreation size courts feature across the Carnival Cruise Line and P&O luxury cruise fleets, which regularly visit the shores of Saint Vincent. Smaller than full-size competition courts, they allow the game to be played in smaller spaces. They are ideal for introducing the game to communities who wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to play.
Ms Joseph said she was glad to see a growing movement behind bocce. Packabocce courts are also used by Special Olympics in the neighbouring country of Barbados.
There are currently over 200 athletes participating with Special Olympics in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. The country has three special needs schools, two located on the main island of Saint Vincent and the other on the island of Bequia, one of the Grenadine Islands.