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Packaworld: The Kiwi company helping power the Special Olympics with inflatable sports courts

Kiwi innovation is set to break down barriers at the Special Olympics - courtesy of large inflatable sports courts.

Innovative inflatable sports courts produced by New Zealand company Packaworld International will take the field at the Latin American Special Olympics Games in Panama this April, along with more than 800 athletes from 21 countries.

The courts provide arenas for bocce, an ancient Italian sport similar to lawn bowling. About 110 athletes from 13 countries are set to take place in the event.

Packaworld chief executive Peter Roberts bocce courts were traditionally built into venues or composed of bulky materials. The new inflatable “Packabocce” courts were designed by Packaworld to solve storage and transport issues, making it easier for a wider range of sportspeople and communities to enjoy the sport. “Bocce is the perfect platform for athletes with a disability to participate on the world stage because it is based on skill rather than physical build or capability,” he says. “The availability of portable courts that can be set up quickly anywhere there is a flat area will inspire people and programmes around the world to offer this inspirational sport.”

And the courts can also allow more people – regardless of how they’re abled – to participate in sports, he says.

Special Olympics International chief executive Mary Davis says that’s a pretty noble goal. “Since their creation, these courts have helped people experience the power of sport by making a unified experience accessible,’ she explains. “For our athletes, that is invaluable. Playing sport empowers people of all abilities to live healthier, more fulfilling lives. But for people with intellectual disabilities, sport is life-changing. Sport can break barriers and end prejudices, and sports like bocce that offer a level playing field are precious.”

The use of Packabocce courts at the Latin American Special Olympics follows a successful 24-court tournament at the 2013 Asia Pacific Special Olympics, held in New South Wales. The courts have left a lasting legacy in the community there. If that’s not enough, Packaworld’s inflatable courts have also recently featured across the Carnival Cruise Line cruise ship fleet in the US, and on the P&O Cruises fleet in Australia as part of a suite of inflatable recreation products.