Basque pelota refers to a selection of so called "court sports", involving a ball, a racket and a basket which is placed against a wall. Traditionally the game is played with 2 teams divided by a straight line or net. The game originates from Greece and was part of the sports of ancient civilizations. In other parts of Europe the game is derived from Tennis.
The term pilota is derived from the Latin word pila, which means hand ball.
Currently, the game has spread to many countries in Europe, but especially in Spain and France. The game is also popular in South American countries like Argentina, Mexico and Peru to name a few. The game is known as Jai Alai in certain parts of the United States of America and occasionally played in the states of Florida, Nevada, and also in New England.
Another version of the game is called Valencian pilota, which is referred to as Valencia's national sport. This variant of the game is also played in parts of Ireland, where it is known as "Gaelic handball". Other places this version is played are Belgium, Italy and some South American countries.
Upon its conception the Federation of Basque Pelota has narrowed down the different versions into only four varieties, consisting of 14 disciplines, each with their own set of specific rules and regulations regarding court sizes and the specific weight of the balls that are used. 12 of the 14 disciplines are only played by male players and only 2 disciplines allow a mixed set up in the teams with men and women on the teams.
The above ensures acceptance to play internationally, allowing players from all across the globe to participate in the games using the same set of rules and regulations. Enthusiasts of the pure version of the game have argued that this results in the loss of the traditional characteristics of the game.
In Spain the game is governed by Federación Española de Pelota Vasca. The Spanish federation is regarded as being a leading influence worldwide, besides the International Federation of Basque Pelota.
During the twenties the game enjoyed an increase in popularity and many tournaments were held, and this period led to the creation of the "Hand-pelota" and "remonte and pala" championships. During the Summer Olympics of 1924, the game was added as a sports demonstration and this demonstration of the game was a very successful one. The popularity of introducing Basque pelota as a demonstration sport resulted in the founding of the Federación Española de Pelota Vasca. The work of the Federation came to an abrupt end during the Spanish Civil War, but was revived in 1940 along with the introduction of new categories. Around that same period the first hand-pelota singles championship was held and won by Atano III.
One year later the first hand-pelota doubles championship was started. It would take until the sixties before new contests were added and most of them were 2nd category tournaments. The last new addition occurred in 1989, when the Cuatro y Medio Euskadi Championship was added to the list of events.