Ready for Rio: Boccia, 16 facts

By Jillian Clarke | Sept. 11, 2014, 1:05 p.m. (ET)

There are only 727 days until the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games begin! Stay on the ball with these 16 facts about boccia:

1. Paralympic history
Boccia became a Paralympic event at the New York/Stoke Mandeville 1984 Paralympic Games, but the sport is thought to have been played in the ancient Olympic Games. While it was played for many years before appearing in the Paralympic Games, the sport’s popularity has grown and is now played in 50 countries.

2. London 2012
In the 2012 London Paralympic Games, 104 athletes competed in seven mixed events including American Austin Hanson.

3. Participants
Boccia is exclusively a Paralympic event played by men and women who have motor skill impairments. Men and women compete together.

4. Classification
Boccia can be played by individuals, pairs or teams. Classifications include:

  • BC1: individual competitors with cerebral palsy who have the use of their feet. There athletes may be assisted.
  • BC2: individual competitors with cerebral palsy who have no use of feet and do not use assistance.
  • BC3: individual competitors with cerebral palsy or other disability. These athletes are allowed to use a ramp and have assistance.
  • BC4: individual competitors with other a disability that is not cerebral palsy

Boccia pairs can be athletes in classes BC3 and BC4, and teams are comprised of BC1 and BC2 athletes.

5. Equipment
Boccia balls must be in good condition for each match. The red and blue balls distinguish individuals, pairs or teams against their opponent. The one white ball—the jack—is used during the game as a target. Ramps are used for BC3 athletes only.

6. Boccia glossary
Jack- the white boccia ball that is thrown at the beginning of the game and used as a target throughout the match.
End- indicates the end of a play when all balls, including the jack, have been thrown by both sides.
Driving Shot- the offensive move of getting the boccia ball closer to the jack or trying to knock an opponent’s boccia ball away from the jack.

7. Scoring
One point is given for every ball that lands closer to the jack than the opponent’s. In the case of a tie at the end of regulation play, participants will play another end to break the tie and determine the final score.

8. Court
Boccia is played on a hard surface, usually a gymnasium floor. The court measures 12.5 meters by 6 meters. Participants play at the far end of the court in one of the six designated 2.5 meter by 1 meter throwing box.

9. Playing order
The red team gets the first throw, which includes playing the jack. The jack must reach across the V-Line on the court in order to be considered playable. Players must stay in their throwing box in order for their play to count.

10. On the line
If a boccia ball is thrown and lands on or outside of the outer court boundary lines, the ball is considered out and is not playable.

11. Violations
Violations occur when players are throwing the balls, and they can result in the award of penalty balls for the opposing player or team. Players can receive violations for several reasons including:

  • If a player leaves the throwing box while the opponent is throwing.
  • If the referee believes there is inappropriate communication between athletes, sport assistants or coaches.
  • If a player picks up his or her ball while the opponent is throwing.
  • If a sports assistant steps onto the court during an end.
  • If a sport assistant moves the athlete’s wheelchair or ramp or rolls the ball without getting confirmation from the athlete.

12. Penalties
Penalty balls are given to opposing players due to violations. These two extra balls are given out after the end finishes and must be played within a two-minute time limit. Violations for either players or teams can be canceled out. For example, if the blue team has two violations and the red team has one, the red team will only receive one set of penalty balls.

13. Brazil
With a total of seven medals from the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Paralympic Games, Brazil is the number one country in boccia. 

14. Austin Hanson
In 1996, Hanson made his Paralympic debut at the Atlanta Paralympic Games. Since then, he has been a member of the U.S. Paralympic boccia team and has competed in a total of three Games (1996, 2004 and 2012). Hanson has also won several medals at world championships since 1996.

15. Boccia history
Boccia debuted at the New York 1984 Paralympic Games, which was the sport’s first international competition. That year, only 17 athletes competed. Since then, classifications for boccia athletes have broadened, which has opened up the sport for many disabled athletes. At the London 2012 Paralympic Games, 104 athletes competed in boccia.

16. Where to watch in 2016
Boccia will be played at the Olympic Hall 2 in 2016 in Olympic Park. Olympic judo, Olympic wrestling and Paralympic judo will also be played in the venue during the Games. The complex will hold approximately 10,000 spectators. 

To learn more about the sport of boccia, visit the USA Boccia website at