An Olympic Dream
In 1896, a bocce Olympiad competition was held in Athens but it would be the middle of the 20th Century before any type of official organization grew up around the game. The first international bocce organization was formed in 1946. The Federation International de Boules (FIB) started with four member countries: Italy, France, Switzerland and Monaco. Today, 39 nations belong to the FIB.
Formal local clubs were first organized around the town of Rivoli, Italy and the first official Italian league was formed in 1947. The first world championships were held that same year in Geneva.
Two competing international organizations were stared in the 1980s. The Confédération Bouliste Internationale (CBI) was started in 1982 to promote bocce among European clubs that did not use metal balls. The FIB, CBI and a third organization formed to promote the French version of the bocce called petanque were all trying to gain Olympic recognition.
The Olympic Committee balked at working with three separate groups, so an umbrella organization was formed in 1985. The Confédération Mondiale Sports Boules (are you keeping all of these names straight?) works solely toward the goal of getting bocce and its related games into the Olympics.
Bocce in America
Italian immigrants brought bocce to the United States and the game was most popular in urban centers that had large Italian-American populations. In the 1970s, the US game had a growth spurt, particularly in California. The Martinez Bocce Federation has 1200 players who play on 14 permanent courts. The game is also popular in RV parks and campgrounds.
In 1976, Chris Gerardo established the United States Bocce Federation. The United States has sent competitors to every world championship since 1977.
Phil Ferrari, a US national singles bocce champion, has formed the World Bocce League to promote the game. According the WBL, more than two million Americans play bocce regularly and 25 million have tried it at least once. The WBL is working to introduce the game to youth and to disabled veterans. Bocce is already part of the Special Olympics and the World Corporate Games.