By Michael Benjamin
The dreams of those desirous of participating in the 2011 Special Olympics in Athens, Greece, was given a fillip following the commissioning of a new and upgraded Bocce Court at the National Gymnasium, yesterday afternoon.
The court, measuring 60 feet by 20 feet, was handed over to the Special Olympians by Director of Sport, Neil Kumar, at a simple ceremony.
Kumar also delivered the feature address moments before Special Olympian, Tamica Octave, cut the ribbon to declare the facility open. National Director of the Special Olympics Committee in Guyana, Wilton Spencer, was credited with the establishment of the court as well as the introduction of the sport locally. His efforts were lauded by Kumar.
The Director of Sport said that he was enthused by the initiative from the time Spencer approached him with the idea. He urged the squad of players, which consisted of those drawn from the differently able clan, to utilize the court to the maximum. Kumar also committed to the sponsorship of the first tournament.
Spencer likened the game to that of billiards where a new skill, referred to as ‘banking’ is employed. The term ‘banking’ has nothing to do with the financial institutions but is coined from the way the bocce ball is rolled.
The game consists of two teams of 4 players each and gets underway after the coin is tossed. Both sides are given four bocce balls (one side gets blue balls while the other is given white balls).
The side that calls correctly is given the first turn and hurls the target ball (a small ball separate from those in the actual game) past the halfway line on the court. Each player then tosses the bocce ball, attempting to get as close as possible to the target ball. After each player has tossed their respective balls, the official in charge of the proceedings ascertains which bocce ball is closer to the target ball and the team using those balls receives a point. The general objective is to see which team gets the bocce ball closer to the target ball. That team earns one point and the process is repeated. The team that accrues the first 16 points wins the game.
Bocce is a sport played regionally and internationally and also at the Special Olympics. Spencer said that he took the initiative to incorporate the sport into the local itinerary in 2002 because he was concerned that senior citizens, in particular, were not receiving enough recreational activities.
He said that the sport does not require excessive physical exertion but provides optimum benefits for participants.
“Participants are given a rare opportunity to socialize with each other even as they understand the many differences among them.
“We hope to represent Guyana at the Special Olympics in Athens Greece in 2011,” Spencer said.
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