Sport (or sports) is all forms of usually competitive physical activity which, through casual or organised participation, aim to use, maintain or improve physical ability and skills while providing entertainment to participants, and in some cases, spectators. Hundreds of sports exist, from those requiring only two participants, through to those with hundreds of simultaneous participants, either in teams or competing as individuals.
Sport is generally recognised as activities which are based in physical athleticism or physical dexterity, with the largest major competitions such as the Olympic Games admitting only sports meeting this definition, and other organisations such as the Council of Europe using definitions precluding activities without a physical element from classification as sports. However, a number of competitive, but non-physical, activities claim recognition as mind sports. The International Olympic Committee (through ARISF) recognises both chess and bridge as bona fide sports, and SportAccord, the international sports federation association, recognises five non-physical sports, although limits the amount of mind games which can be admitted as sports.
Sports are usually governed by a set of rules or customs, which serve to ensure fair competition, and allow consistent adjudication of the winner. Winning can be determined by physical events such as scoring goals or crossing a line first, or by the determination of judges who are scoring elements of the sporting performance, including objective or subjective measures such as technical performance or artistic impression.
In organised sport, records of performance are often kept, and for popular sports, this information may be widely announced or reported in sport news. In addition, sport is a major source of entertainment for non-participants, with spectator sports drawing large crowds to venues, and reaching wider audiences through sports broadcasting.
According to A.T. Kearney, a consultancy, the global sporting industry is worth up to $620 billion as of 2013.
- 1 Meaning and usage
- 2 History
- 3 Fair play
- 4 Participation
- 5 Issues and considerations
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 Further reading
- 9 External links
Meaning and usage
Other meanings include gambling and events staged for the purpose of gambling; hunting; and games and diversions, including ones that require exercise. Roget's defines the noun sport as an "activity engaged in for relaxation and amusement" with synonyms including diversion and recreation.
The singular term "sport" is used in most English dialects to describe the overall concept (e.g. "children taking part in sport"), with "sports" used to describe multiple activities (e.g. "football and rugby are the most popular sports in England"). American English uses "sports" for both terms.
The precise definition of what separates a sport from other leisure activities varies between sources. The closest to an international agreement on a definition is provided by SportAccord, which is the association for all the largest international sports federations (including association football, athletics, cycling, tennis, equestrian sports and more), and is therefore the de facto representative of international sport.
SportAccord uses the following criteria, determining that a sport should:
- have an element of competition
- be in no way harmful to any living creature
- not rely on equipment provided by a single supplier (excluding proprietary games such as arena football)
- not rely on any "luck" element specifically designed into the sport
They also recognise that sport can be primarily physical (such as rugby or athletics), primarily mind (such as chess or go), predominantly motorised (such as Formula 1 or powerboating), primarily co-ordination (such as billiard sports), or primarily animal-supported (such as equestrian sport).
There has been an increase in the application of the term "sport" to a wider set of non-physical challenges such as electronic sports, especially due to the large scale of participation and organised competition, but these are not widely recognised by mainstream sports organisations.
There are opposing views on the necessity of competition as a defining element of a sport, with almost all professional sport involving competition, and governing bodies requiring competition as a prerequisite of recognition by the International Olympic Committee(IOC) or SportAccord.
Other bodies advocate widening the definition of sport to include all physical activity. For instance, the Council of Europe include all forms of physical exercise, including those completed just for fun.
In order to widen participation, and reduce the impact of losing on less able participants, there has been an introduction of non-competitive physical activity to traditionally competitive events such as school sports days, although moves like this are often controversial.
In competitive events, participants are graded or classified based on their "result" and often divided into groups of comparable performance, (e.g. gender, weight and age). For each group, the first in the list will usually be the "winner". The measurement of the result may be objective or subjective, and corrected with "handicaps" or penalties. In a race, for example, the time to complete the course is an objective measurement. In gymnastics or diving the result is decided by a panel of judges, and therefore subjective. There are many shades in between, like boxing or mixed martial arts, where victory is assigned by judges if neither competitor has lost at the end of the match time.
There are artifacts and structures that suggest that the Chinese engaged in sporting activities as early as 2000 BC. Gymnastics appears to have been a popular sport in China's ancient past. Monuments to the Pharaohs indicate that a number of sports, including swimming and fishing, were well-developed and regulated several thousands of years ago in ancient Egypt. Other Egyptian sports included javelin throwing, high jump, and wrestling. Ancient Persian sports such as the traditional Iranian martial art of Zourkhaneh had a close connection to the warfare skills. Among other sports that originate in ancient Persia are polo and jousting.
A wide range of sports were already established by the time of Ancient Greece and the military culture and the development of sports in Greece influenced one another considerably. Sports became such a prominent part of their culture that the Greeks created the Olympic Games, which in ancient times were held every four years in a small village in the Peloponnesus called Olympia.
Sports have been increasingly organised and regulated from the time of the ancient Olympics up to the present century. Industrialisation has brought increased leisure time to the citizens of developed and developing countries, leading to more time for citizens to attend and follow spectator sports, greater participation in athletic activities, and increased accessibility. These trends continued with the advent of mass media and global communication. Professionalism became prevalent, further adding to the increase in sport's popularity, as sports fans began following the exploits of professional athletes through radio, television, and the internet — all while enjoying the exercise and competition associated with amateur participation in sports.
Sportsmanship expresses an aspiration or ethos that the activity will be enjoyed for its own sake. The well-known sentiment by sports journalist Grantland Rice, that it's "not that you won or lost but how you played the game", and the modern Olympic creed expressed by its founder Pierre de Coubertin: "The most important thing... is not winning but taking part" are typical expressions of this sentiment.
Key principles of sport include that the result should not be predetermined, and that both sides should have equal opportunity to win. Rules are in place to ensure that fair play to occur, but participants can break these rules in order to gain advantage.
Participants may choose to cheat in order to satisfy their desire to win, or in order to achieve an ulterior motive. The widespread existence of gambling on the results of sports fixtures creates the motivation for match fixing, where a participant or participants deliberately work to ensure a given outcome.
Doping and drugs
The competitive nature of sport encourages some participants to attempt to enhance their performance through the use of medicines, or through other means such as increasing the volume of blood in their bodies through artificial means.
All sports recognised by the IOC or SportAccord are required to implement a testing programme, looking for a list of banned drugs, with suspensions or bans being placed on participants who test positive for banned substances.
Violence in sports involves crossing the line between fair competition and intentional aggressive violence. Athletes, coaches, fans, and parents sometimes unleash violent behaviour on people or property, in misguided shows of loyalty, dominance, anger, or celebration. Rioting or hooliganism are common and ongoing problems at national and international sporting contests.
Female participation continues to rise alongside the opportunity for involvement and the value of sports for child development and physical fitness. Despite gains during the last three decades, a gap persists in the enrollment figures between male and female players. Female players account for 39% of the total participation in US interscholastic athletics. Gender balance has been accelerating from a 32% increase in 1973–74 to a 63% increase in 1994–95. Hessel (2000)[full citation needed].
Youth sports present children with opportunities for fun, socialization, forming peer relationships, physical fitness, and athletic scholarships. Activists for education and the war on drugs encourage youth sports as a means to increase educational participation and to fight the illegal drug trade. According to the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, the biggest risk for youth sports is death or serious injury including concussion, with the highest risk coming from running, basketball, football, volleyball, soccer, and gymnastics.
The competition element of sport, along with the aesthetic appeal of some sports, result in the popularity of people attending to watch sport being played. This has led to the specific phenomenon of spectator sport.
Both amateur and professional sports attract spectators, both in person at the sport venue, and through broadcast mediums including radio, television and internet broadcast. Both attendance in person and viewing remotely can incur a sometimes substantial charge, such as an entrance ticket, or pay-per-view television broadcast.
It is common for popular sports to attract large broadcast audiences, leading to rival broadcasters bidding large amounts of money for the rights to show certain fixtures. The football World Cup attracts a global television audience of hundreds of millions; the 2006 final alone attracted an estimated worldwide audience of well over 700 million and the 2011 Cricket World Cup Final attracted an estimated audience of 135 million in India alone .
In the United States, the championship game of the NFL, the Super Bowl, has become one of the most watched television broadcasts of the year. Super Bowl Sunday is a de facto national holiday in America; the viewership being so great that in 2007 advertising space was reported as being sold at $2.6m for a 30 second slot.
Issues and considerations
Amateur and professional
The popularity of spectator sport as a recreation for non-participants has led to sport becoming a major business in its own right, and this has incentivised a high paying professional sport culture, where high performing participants are rewarded with pay far in excess of average wages, which can run into millions of dollars.
Some sports, or individual competitions within a sport, retain a policy of allowing only amateur sport. The Olympic Games started with a principle of amateur competition with those who practiced a sport professionally considered to have an unfair advantage over those who practiced it merely as a hobby. Following the 1988 games, the IOC decided to make all professional athletes eligible for the Olympics, with only boxing and wrestling still competed on an "amateur" basis, although this revolves around rules, and not payment.
Grassroots sport is a popular phrase which covers the amateur participation in sport at lower levels, normally without pretension towards higher achievement, and is in line with the "sport for all" mentality, where enjoyment is the primary reason for participation.
Technology plays an important part in modern sport, with it being a necessary part of some sports (such as motorsport), and used in others to improve performance.
Sports science is a widespread academic discipline, and can be applied to areas including athlete performance, such as the use of video analysis to fine tune technique, or to equipment, such as improved running shoes or competitive swimwear.
Sports engineering emerged as a discipline in 1998 with an increasing focus not just on materials design but also the use of technology in sport.
In order to control the impact of technology on fair play, governing bodies frequently have specific rules that are set to control the impact of technical advantage between participants.
Sports and politics can influence each other greatly.
When apartheid was the official policy in South Africa, many sports people, particularly in rugby union, adopted the conscientious approach that they should not appear in competitive sports there. Some feel this was an effective contribution to the eventual demolition of the policy of apartheid, others feel that it may have prolonged and reinforced its worst effects.
In the history of Ireland, Gaelic sports were connected with cultural nationalism. Until the mid 20th century a person could have been banned from playing Gaelic football, hurling, or other sports administered by the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) if she/he played or supported football, or other games seen to be of British origin. Until recently the GAA continued to ban the playing of football and rugby union at Gaelic venues. This ban is still enforced, but was modified to allow football and rugby to be played in Croke Park while Lansdowne Road was redeveloped into Aviva Stadium. Until recently, under Rule 21, the GAA also banned members of the British security forces and members of the RUC from playing Gaelic games, but the advent of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 led to the eventual removal of the ban.
Nationalism is often evident in the pursuit of sports, or in its reporting: people compete in national teams, or commentators and audiences can adopt a partisan view. On occasion, such tensions can lead to violent confrontation among players or spectators within and beyond the sporting venue, as in the Football War. These trends are seen by many as contrary to the fundamental ethos of sports being carried on for its own sake and for the enjoyment of its participants.
A very famous case when sports and politics collided was the 1972 Olympics in Munich. Masked men entered the hotel of the Israeli olympic team and killed many of their men. This was known as the Munich massacre.
- Outline of sports
- List of sports
- List of sportspeople
- List of sports attendance figures
- List of professional sports leagues
- New Media and Sports
- Related topics
- Athletic sports
- Combat sport
- Disabled sports
- Electronic sports
- Handedness#Advantage in sports
- Mind sport
- Most popular sport by country
- Motor sports
- Multi-sport events
- National sport
- Nationalism and sports
- Olympic Games
- Paralympic Games
- Sport in film
- Sport governing bodies
- Sport Psychology
- Sports club
- Sports coaching
- Sports commentator
- Sports equipment
- Sports fan
- Sports injuries
- Sports league attendances
- Sports marketing
- Sports terms named after people
- Sports trainer
- Underwater sports
- Women's sports
- Water sports
- European Commission (2007), The White Paper on Sport.
- Council of Europe (2001), The Europien sport charter.
- The Meaning of Sports by Michael Mandel (PublicAffairs, ISBN 1-58648-252-1).
- Journal of the Philosophy of Sport
- Sullivan, George. The Complete Sports Dictionary. New York: Scholastic Book Services, 1979. 199 p. ISBN 0-590-05731-6
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