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Inflatable bocce courts developed in New Zealand will grace the stage of the world’s largest inclusive sporting event this month when they are used at the Special Olympics World Games in Berlin, Germany.

The World Games will attract 7,000 athletes from around 170 countries – including 39 athletes from New Zealand – for nine days of competition starting Saturday 17 June.

The ‘Packabocce’ courts designed by Wellington-based Packaworld will be used for the World Games’ bocce competition, played at the Messe Berlin exhibition grounds. Bocce – a sport with similarities to bowls but played within a walled court – is enjoyed by more than 400,000 people in Special Olympics globally, making it the third most played sport, behind only football and golf.

Packaworld Chief Executive Peter Roberts said he was delighted the courts were being used at the pinnacle of Special Olympics competition.

“When we developed the courts back in 2013, we had no idea of how popular they would become. It’s fantastic to see them becoming the global standard for bocce competitions and helping to grow a sport that truly does cater for people of all abilities.”

The Packaworld courts are 18.3 metres long by 3.65 metres wide and include wheelchair accessible gates to allow access for any athletes with mobility issues. Unlike traditional bocce courts made of wood, the Packabocce courts are lightweight and can be inflated or deflated in minutes, making them easy to transport and setup, and simple to store.

The courts debuted at a local Special Olympics bocce competition in Wellington in 2013 and have since hit the big time, being used as the court of choice for many Special Olympics State Games in the USA, National Games across Europe and the Asia-Pacific, and Regional Games in Latin America.

Today, hundreds of Packabocce courts are sold annually, including to Special Olympics event and programme organisers, schools, clubs, social leagues, festival and event organisers, and even cruise ship companies.

“Seeing the difference the courts make is humbling. Business growth is fantastic, but seeing the way the courts are helping to bring bocce to people and communities that wouldn’t otherwise get the chance to play is what really drives us. Sport is a big part of growing up in New Zealand and it’s fantastic to be able to play a small part in sharing that sporting lifestyle with the world.”

Roberts will be at the Special Olympics World Games as part of its Honoured Guest Program to observe the event and cheer on the athletes from all nations.


Photo: Athletes competing on Packabocce courts at the Special Olympics Invitational Games Malta in 2022.

Glenn Baker

Glenn is a professional writer/editor with 50-plus years’ experience across radio, television and magazine publishing.


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