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Friday, September 18, 2009

About Jai Alai

History Of Jai Alai

The game of Jai Alai originates from Spain, over 3 centuries ago, where it was called "Pelota Vasca" and commonly played against church walls. It was brought to Cuba in 1898, where it was given the name Jai Alai. In 1926, Jai Alai was introduced as a professional sport at the Miami Fronton. Presently, there are more Jai Alai Frontons in Florida, USA, than anywhere else in the world.

The name "jai alai" comes from the Basque language, meaning 'Merry Festival'. The term refers to the open-wall arena, called a fronton, used to play the game, and a variety of other Basque Pelota games - Cesta Punta in Spanish. The Basque Government promotes Jai Alai as "the fastest game in the world", as the ball is hurled from a wicker basket at speed as high as 188 miles-per-hour (302 kilometers-per-hour), as recorded August 3rd, 1979, by José Ramón Areitio at the Newport Jai Alai, Rhode Island, USA.

The wicker-basket glove, known as "Xistera" in Basque and Cesta-Punta in Spanish, was first introduced by Saint-Pée Frenchman Gantchiqui Dithurbide in 1860. A longer version of the glove was later introduced by Melchior Curuchage of Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1888.

In the early 20th century, Jai Alai was sweeping the globe with popularity. Jai Alai was played in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, Colombia, Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia, Italy, Macau, Spain, the United States of America and elsewhere. Since then, many Jai Alai fans have lost their enthusiasm. Miami and Dania Beach, both in Florida, remain the only full-time open frontons in the United States. In all, only 6 Frontons remain in the State of Florida. These can be found in Dania Beach, Fort Pierce, Hamilton County, Miami, Ocala (Orange Lake) and Orlando (Casselberry).

Travel to northern Spain between June and August and you'll find some of the feistiest professional jai alai action as players from around the world gather to compete in head-to-head matches, know as partidos. Nearly every night of the week, these partidos can be found ongoing from the northern corner of Spain to the south-west tip of France.

Jai Alai made it's way into the Olympic Games on several occasions, first in the 1924 Olympics held in Paris, and most recently in Barcelona, Spain, during the 1992 Olympics. China saw the foundation of jai alai frontons in both Shanghai and Tientsin by 1934, but the game's brief success came to an abrupt end due to World War II and the communist government.

In modern times, jai alai remains popular throughout Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, Italy, Brazil, Indonesia, China, Egypt, the Philippines and the parts of United States.

The US state of Texas has plans underway to reinvigorate the sport of Jai Alai by constructing a Jai Alai Fronton, due to open in 2009. Located in the city of Plano, just north of Dallas, TX, the stadium is projected to seat 12,000 spectators. According to reports, Texas has already contacted the Federation of the International of the Basque Ball, seeking to house the 2010 celebration of the Championship.

Here are a few interesting facts about the history of Jai Alai. The youngest professional player of the sport was Piston I, who's career began in 1922 in Madrid, Spain at the ripe old age of 9. Aside from this phenomenally young player, training for jai alai usually starts between the ages of 8 and 10, taking years to master before entering into Jai Alai on a professional level. Last but not least, the jai alai ball, known as the "pelota", is the hardest ball used in any sporting event. Approximately 3/4 the size of a baseball, the rubber ball is shrink-wrapped in two layers of goat skin, said to be harder than a rock. The life-span of a single pelota ball averages 20 minutes of play due to the extreme velocity at which it is blasted against the fronton wall, eventually splitting open and requiring a replacement pelota.


Jai-alai in the Philippines

Jai-alai, a Basque version of handball played with a long curved basket strapped to the wrist, will now be on six days a week at a stadium in central Manila.
State-run Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (PAGCOR) estimates revenues of 1.5 billion pesos (about $40 million) will flow in from the game and allied betting per year to be shared in equal portions between itself and its two partners - a unit of Belle Corp and Filipinas Gaming Entertainment Totalisator Corp (Filgame).
"We will be making about 500 million pesos each per year," PAGCOR official Senen Lainez told Reuters.
Organisers have set up 120 computerised betting windows at the stadium, revamped at a cost of one billion pesos by Belle and Filgame, and plan to open 280 more at other locations in Manila.
By next year, windows will be opened across the country, each carrying the games on closed-circuit television alongside the latest odds on the players, Lainez said.
PAGCOR announced the completion of the deal only last week, sending Belle's shares soaring. It closed at 4.20 pesos on Tuesday, up 15 centavos, from a year-low of 1.50 pesos.
There was no advance word that the games would be resuming on Tuesday, but hundreds of spectators were at the 2,600-seat stadium anyway, cheering lustily as Spanish and local players, who have been in training for months, took part in the inaugural game.
Betting was brisk despite the lack of knowledge about the players, with a minimum wager of 10 pesos and no maximum.
"Imagine what will happen tomorrow, when people will know that the games have resumed," said Erasmo Rivera, another PAGCOR official.
Jai-alai, which originated in the Basque region of Spain, has long been popular in the Philippines, formerly a Spanish colony and named after King Philip of Spain. It was banned in 1986 by the government of then president Corazon Aquino after a game-fixing scandal.
An attempt to resurrect the game was made in 1994, but the Supreme Court banned it again on the grounds that gambling was against the national interest and that the game had to be franchised only by the national government.
PAGCOR, which operates casinos and other gambling in the country, said it had sought and received clearance from the Department of Justice and the president's office for the resumption of jai-alai.
But many senators and the powerful Catholic church have opposed jai-alai's relaunch, saying it targets low-income groups which can ill afford to gamble.



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