Petanque, the quintessential Gallic pastime played in village squares across France for hundreds of years, launched its bid Monday to be included in the 2024 Olympic Games.
Boules’ ruling body, the CMSB (Confederation Mondiale des Sports de Boules) with Monaco’s Prince Albert as its president, sent off its official candidacy letter to Olympic chief Thomas Bach.
The CMSB boasts 262 federations spread over 165 countries and 200 million devotees across the five continents, especially Asia.
That’s twice as many licensed golfers, with golf making its Olympic debut in Rio next year.
In announcing its intention to try to climb onto the Olympic stage the CMSB highlighted boules’ “role in society” and ability to cross the generational divide.
It is the 10th most popular sport in France with more than 300,000 participants. Thailand is the next most popular boules-playing nation with 40,000 members, while Japan has 10,000.
Employing the slogan “same sport, several disciplines, one candidate”, boules is hoping to get on the roster of an Olympics that could be held in Paris — the French capital is bidding to host the summer Games in nine years’ time.
Also in the race to stage the 2024 Games are Budapest, Hamburg, Los Angeles, and Rome.
“Boules sport” comprises three disciplines – petanque, boule lyonnaise, and rafle.
France has predictably won the last ten editions of the petanque world championships, a run dating back to 2001.
But Belgium, Algeria and Madagascar have also claimed petanque’s ultimate prize.
Petanque, often seen as a recreational game for the older generation, with matches a feature of rural French life at weekends, involves throwing a metal ball from a circle on a flat dirt or gravel track and trying to land as close as possible to the wooden jack.
The 2012 world championships in Marseille brought together more than 10,000 competitors from 20 countries, with 150,000 spectators.
The game is not without danger.
In 2013 an 84-year-old petanque-playing pensioner was crushed to death by a two-tonne elephant called Tanya that had escaped from a circus in a village near Paris.
And in 2008 a French player was fatally struck on the head by an opponent’s ball near the Catholic shrine of Lourdes.