The sport of Pétanque, like raffa, lawn bowls, bocce, boules lyonnaise and crown green bowling, falls under the category of Boules Sports. All these sports share a commonality in that the participants play towards a target ball. A player stands with both feet inside a circle and the objective is to score points by throwing or rolling boules closer to the target than your opponent, after all the boules have been thrown. The target ball is called the cochonnet. One can also hit your opponents’ boules and therefore move them away from the target. The game can be played anywhere, but the best surface area is hard dirt or gravel. There are also dedicated indoor areas called boulodromes. Pétanque is played by two teams, with each team consisting of either one or up to three players. The playing area is called a terrain.
The history of boules games can be found are far back as ancient Egypt and Greece and ancient Rome. It was during the latter half of the 19th century where a form of boules developed in France that is today known as boule lyonnaise (jeu provençal). A player would either roll their boule or run forward taking three steps and then throw the boule. This proved to be a very popular game and from here the variant of pétanque developed in 1910. It came from the need to aid a former jeu provençal player who suffered from severe rheumatism. The length of the playing area was reduced to almost half, and instead of taking steps to throw the boule, a player would stand in the circle. This variant was originally called pieds tanqués, meaning ‘feet planted’. The first tournament was organised by brothers Ernest and Joseph Pitiot in 1910 and the sport grew from there to become the most popular form of boules in France.
After spreading across France, the game then spread across the rest of Europe and to Francophone colonies like Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and India. Even countries in Africa formerly colonised by France, also took up the sport. In 2015 it featured in the All-Africa Games hosted by the Republic of Congo, a former French colony. It is not so widely played in the Americas, but there are federations in Canada and the USA. The Fédération Internationale de Pétanque et jeu Provençal (FIPJP) is the world governing body for the sport. It is also the founding member of the Confederation Mondial Sport Boules, whose main purpose is to have all boules sports included in the Olympic Games. Pétanque was officially recognised by the IOC in 1986.