Boccia is a Paralympic sport for athletes with disabilities that have a major impact on motor skills. The game originated in Greece and was later refined in Italy in the 16th century. It is a target ball activity similar to bowls and became a Paralympic sport in 1984.
Boccia can be played by individuals, pairs or teams of three and all events are mixed gender. The aim of the game is to throw coloured balls as close as they can to a white target ball, or jack. The balls can be moved with hands, feet, or, depending on the level of the competitor's disability, with an assistive device such as a ramp. The game is played on a flat court measuring 12.5 × 6 m with 2 m of empty space around it. The throwing area is divided into six rectangular boxes in which the athletes must remain during play. The balls are made of leather and are slightly larger than a tennis ball, weighing approximately 275 grams and measuring 270 mm in circumference.
To be eligible to compete in boccia at national or international level, athletes must have a disability and be in a wheelchair, as a result of cerebral palsy or another neurological condition that has similar effects, such as muscular dystrophy or traumatic brain injury. Players are examined to determine the extent of their disability and then assigned to a sport class (BC1 through BC4), designed to allow them to compete against other athletes with a similar level of physical function.
The international competition calendar is based on the Summer Paralympic Games quadrennial, with international regional championships in the first year, world championships in the second year, world cup in the third year, and the Paralympic games in the fourth year.
88 athletes from 19 countries competed at the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing. Brazil and Korea were ranked first equal over all, both countries finishing with two gold medals and one bronze medal each. Great Britain won their first ever team Gold in Beijing and are ranked number three in the World in the BC1/BC2 team event. The quartet of Nigel Murray, Dan Bentley, David Smith and Zoe Robinson beat defending champions Portugal in the final. Nigel Murray also won individual Silver in the BC2 class and is the current World number one.
The Great Britain Boccia Federation (GBBF) was formed in 2007 with the aim of bringing together CP Sport England and Wales, Scottish Disability Sport and Disability Sport Wales. The GBBF's primary role is the selection and development of the GB Boccia squad for International events to qualify teams and pairs to represent Great Britain at the Paralympic Games.