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Kiwi innovation on show at USA state Special Olympics event

Kiwi innovation on show at USA’s largest state Special Olympics event

Inflatable bocce courts developed in New Zealand were centre stage at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Disney World, Orlando, on the weekend as part of the Special Olympics Florida State Summer Games.

More than 5,000 athletes, coaches, volunteers and family members took part in the Games, which are the largest state-level Special Olympics event in the United States.

The inflatable ‘Packabocce’ courts, developed by Wellington-based company Packaworld International, feature a lightweight but highly durable design that makes them far more portable than traditional bocce courts made out of wood or stone.

Special Olympics Florida Director of Sport and Programs Meghan McLean said the 10 courts used for the Games’ bocce competition were set up in just over an hour. This compared to nearly five hours to set up the older-style courts made of PVC piping used in previous years.

She said the new Packabocce courts allowed this year’s bocce event to be held indoors, which removed the risk of rain and ensured some athletes who might not otherwise have been able to compete in Florida’s summer heat, for medical reasons, could still take part.

“In Florida during May the temperature can be in the high 90s [Fahrenheit]. By being able to bring bocce athletes inside we’ve been able to increase the number competing by 20 per cent. Usually we shoot for five per cent growth,” Ms McLean said.

Bocce is one of the most popular sports in the Special Olympics because it is social and accessible to people of all ages and abilities. Originating in Italy, the sport is now played by tens of millions of people around the world.

Packaworld CEO Peter Roberts said the courts had been developed to help bocce-lovers increase participation and bring the game to new locations and people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to play.

“Traditional courts are heavy and extremely difficult to transport. We wanted to give organisers and bocce players a way to take the game with them and to introduce it to people in areas that don’t already have fixed courts.”

Packabocce courts’ inflatable and highly portable design made them easy to transport and simple to store, he said. They also include a built-in gate that can be opened to provide access for people in wheelchairs or with other mobility impairments.

“The courts have also been really popular with event organisers and organisations looking to provide recreation experiences that stand out. There are more than 40 courts on cruise ships around the world and dozens more in bars across the USA supporting social leagues organised by groups like the American Bocce Company.”

Packabocce courts are available in three sizes – Competition (60’ x 12’) used for major events and competitive play, as well as Recreational (30’ x 8’) and Mini (22 ’x 6’).

More than 200 of the courts are now in use across the USA, and there are more than 350 in use globally. Packabocce courts have also been used as the court of choice at Latin American and Asia Pacific regional Special Olympics tournaments.



Similar to English lawn bowls and French pétanque, bocce is a sport that can be played anywhere and anytime by anyone. Bocce originated in Italy, and the Romans, Egyptians and Greeks all played a form of the game, making it one of the world’s oldest sports. Packaworld’s new inflatable Packabocce courts are rigid when inflated, come in a variety of sizes and allow the sport to be delivered in a much greater range of scenarios and locations.


Special Olympics transforms lives through the joy of sport, every day, everywhere. It is the world’s largest sports organisation for people with intellectual disabilities, with more than 4.7 million athletes in 169 countries -- and over a million volunteers. Find out more at


Headquartered in Wellington, New Zealand, Packaworld believes people should be able to play the sports they love where and when they want to, whether they are athletes competing at the highest level or everyday people enjoying a game in their local neighborhood.

Through relentless innovation Packaworld has created a range of portable sports equipment that gives people the freedom to come together and play for real – real easy and real fast.

© Scoop Media

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