“We were fortunate to get the bulk of the funding for the portable courts from the Sulphur City Lions, so we were very pleased about that.”
Rotorua athletes had their first taste of the courts on Wednesday 13 February at Western Lakes High School, where 20 Special Olympics athletes between the ages of 14 and 60 experienced the sport for the first time. Ms Brewer teaches in the school’s Te Maru (Special Needs) unit and sees potential for bocce to be used in an educational setting as well.
“It was a fantastic evening and everyone really enjoyed themselves.”
Special Olympics Southland is another chapter of the organisation using the portable courts, developed by Wellington-based Packaworld International.
With the help of grant funding from The Southern Trust, the Southland chapter has purchased two 60-foot by 12-foot competition-sized Packabocce courts, as well as two 30-foot by 8-foot recreation-sized Packabocce courts, which will be used for more casual play.
Special Olympics Southland chairman Isabel Murray said the new courts would make it possible to take bocce to multiple indoor and outdoor venues across the region. Bocce has been offered in Southland previously, but the new courts would provide more opportunities for people to participate.
Ms Murray said the competition courts would be used for competitive matches and the smaller recreation courts would be used for training and social meetups because they could be set up by just one volunteer.
“The portability of Packabocce courts is really important to us. With the wind and rain we get down here having the ability to take the courts indoors when needed is absolutely key. If we go from Invercargill to Balclutha to run an event, we can take the courts with us.”
Special Olympics New Zealand is placing an increasing focus on bocce because of the opportunities it affords for participants to compete internationally, including at the Special Olympics World Summer Games held every four years.
Indoor bowls has historically been popular in New Zealand but is not as popular internationally and is not currently included in the Special Olympics World Summer Games sports programme.
Globally, tens of thousands of Special Olympics athletes compete in bocce. In New Zealand, more than 600 Special Olympics athletes play the sport.
The number of New Zealand athletes playing bocce increased by 43 per cent between 2017 and 2018, and the sport is now offered by 27 Special Olympics clubs.
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