An indoor game played between individuals or teams, in which a ball is bowled down a smooth wooden ‘lane’ towards a set of ‘pins’ arranged in a triangular fashion, with the aim of knocking all of them down. It is most widely popular in the USA, where it was developed as an adaptation of a European variant called ‘ninepins’, and played informally on the east coast of the country in the early 19th century. The American Bowling Congress (ABC) was formed in 1895, and by the last quarter of the 20th century the sport could claim to be one of the world's most popular participant sports. Its success in the USA combined modern technology with family entertainment. The Fédération Internationale des Quilleurs (FIQ), founded in 1952, invited the ABC to become affiliated in 1961. The FIQ was recognized by the International Olympic Committee in 1979, as representing both tenpin and ninepin variants of the sport, which it claimed, twenty years later, to be ‘one of the largest and best organized sports in the world’, with 100 million participants, 10 million competitors, and 250,000 bowling lanes. Despite such claims, the collective base of the sport in the USA has been in decline, and has acted as a metaphor in the work of political scientist Robert Putnam for the move away from collective participation, in leagues, to individual participation, ‘bowling alone’—an example, for Putnam, of diminishing social capital in communities.
Subjects: Sport and Leisure.