or, Will petanque ever become an Olympic sport?

cmsb_logoThe Confédération Mondiale des Sports de Boules – World Confederation of Boules Sports – is the interface to the Olympic committee for all “boules” sports, including petanque, lawn bowles, bocce, volo, and raffa.

The story of the CMSB is a strange, sad and convoluted tale.

The CMSB was created in 1985 by three international boules organizations. The purpose of the CMSB was to be recognized as a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), in order to obtain consideration for entry of boules-type games into the Olympic Games. As a first step along that road, it succeeded in getting registered with the Association of the IOC Recognised International Sports Federations (ARISF).

To date, the CMSB has failed in its organizational mission of getting boules sports into the Olympics. And it will never succeed. Petanque will never become an Olympic sport.

  • For one thing, there are large portions of the planet — including the entire western hemisphere… both North and South America — where petanque is virtually unknown.
  • For another, petanque already has several well-established world championships, and the Olympic Committee has no reason to try to compete with them for attention.
  • Finally, the International Olympic Committee is cutting back, not expanding, the size of the Olympic games. As Phillipe Boets wrote in his 2008 blog post on Petanque & the Olympics:

    On the worldwide Olympic scale, there has been a tendency to reduce, rather than increase the list of sports, which now stands at 26 for London 2012, when baseball and softball will disappear. Also, the principle of demonstration sports, a traditional way of introducing a new sport “on the sidelines” was abolished after 1992. So, in my humble opinion, the chances are slim.

Nevertheless the CMSB soldiers on. Petanque (along with Boule Lyonnaise and Raffa) is a part of the World Games — an international event for Olympic wanna-be sports.

The CMSB’s greatest achievement occurred in 2007, when it persuaded the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to permit the consumption of pastis during competition boules games.

The organization has had a troubled life.

In February 2013, after performing an internal cost/benefit analysis of membership in the CMSB, World Bowls withdrew from the CMSB.

Shortly thereafter, at a CMSB meeting in Rome in April 2013, Claude Azéma (on behalf of the FIPJP) expressed serious doubts about the governance and effectiveness of the CMSB, and raised the possibility that the FIPJP might withdraw from the CMSB. During the meeting he noted that if France were to withdraw from the CMSB, the CMSB’s statutes would require the CMSB to dissolve.

After that meeting, the CMSB changed dramatically. Although its legal headquarters are in Monaco, and its official language is French, it had been a heavily Italian organization, with administrative headquarters in Rome, an Italian president, and a web site that offered pages in French and Italian. All of that changed in 2014. The Italian president Romolo Rizzoli and the French vice-president Claude Azéma exchanged jobs. The posts of treasurer and webmaster were filled by French personnel. The Italian-language web site was taken down and replaced by a redesigned web site which offers pages in French and English.

With Azema now at the helm, the CMSB announced in April 2015 that it was still on its Quixotic quest to become an Olympic event.

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