Sport (British English) or sports (American English) includes all
forms of competitive physical activity or games which, through
casual or organised participation, aim to use, maintain or improve
physical ability and skills while providing enjoyment to participants,
and in some cases, entertainment for spectators. Usually the
contest or game is between two sides, each attempting to exceed the
other. Some sports allow a tie game; others provide tie-breaking
methods, to ensure one winner and one loser. A number of such
two-sided contests may be arranged in a tournament producing a
champion. Many sports leagues make an annual champion by arranging
games in a regular sports season, followed in some cases by playoffs.
Hundreds of sports exist, from those between single contestants,
through to those with hundreds of simultaneous participants, either in
teams or competing as individuals. In certain sports such as racing,
many contestants may compete, each against each other, with one
Sport is generally recognised as system of 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: bridge, chess, draughts (checkers), Go and
xiangqi, and limits the number 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. It can also be determined by judges
who are scoring elements of the sporting performance, including
objective or subjective measures such as technical performance or
Records of performance are often kept, and for popular sports, this
information may be widely announced or reported in sport news. Sport
is also a major source of entertainment for non-participants, with
spectator sport drawing large crowds to sport venues, and reaching
wider audiences through broadcasting.
Sports betting is in some cases
severely regulated, and in some cases is central to the sport.
According to A.T. Kearney, a consultancy, the global sporting industry
is worth up to $620 billion as of 2013. The world's most accessible
and practiced sport is running, while association football is its most
popular spectator sport.
1 Meaning and usage
3 Fair play
3.3 Doping and drugs
4.1 Gender participation
4.2 Youth participation
4.3 Disabled participation
4.4 Spectator involvement
5 Issues and considerations
5.1 Amateur and professional
5.3.1 Sports as a means of controlling and subduing populations
5.4 Religious views on sports
6 See also
8 Further reading
9 External links
Meaning and usage
The word "Sport" comes from the
Old French desport meaning "leisure",
with the oldest definition in English from around 1300 being "anything
humans find amusing or entertaining".
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.
Game § Definitions
The International Olympic Committee recognizes some board games as
sports including chess.
Show jumping, an equestrian sport
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
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).
The inclusion of mind sports within sport definitions has not been
universally accepted, leading to legal challenges from governing
bodies in regards to being denied funding available to sports.
SportAccord recognises a small number of mind sports, it is not
open to admitting any further mind sports.
There has been an increase in the application of the term "sport" to a
wider set of non-physical challenges such as video games, also called
esports, especially due to the large scale of participation and
organised competition, but these are not widely recognised by
mainstream sports organisations. According to Council of Europe,
European Sports Charter, article 2.i, " "Sport" means all forms of
physical activity which, through casual or organised participation,
aim at expressing or improving physical fitness and mental well-being,
forming social relationships or obtaining results in competition at
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
Council of Europe include all
forms of physical exercise, including those competed 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
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). 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 of judging between boxing and mixed martial arts, where victory
is assigned by judges if neither competitor has lost at the end of the
Main article: History of sport
Roman bronze reduction of Myron's Discobolos, 2nd century AD.
Artifacts and structures suggest sport in China as early as 2000
Gymnastics appears to have been popular 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 warfare skills. Among other
sports that originate in ancient Persia are polo and jousting.
Motorized sports have appeared since the advent of the modern age
Electronic sports are a recent development.
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, letting people attend and follow
spectator sports and participate in athletic activities. 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 followed the exploits of
professional athletes — all while enjoying the exercise and
competition associated with amateur participation in sports. Since the
turn of the 21st century, there has been increasing debate about
whether transgender sportpersons should be able to participate in
sport events that conform with their post-transition gender
Main article: Sportsmanship
Gamesmanship and Winning isn't everything; it's the only
Sportsmanship is an attitude that strives for fair play, courtesy
toward teammates and opponents, ethical behaviour and integrity, and
grace in victory or defeat.
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.
Match fixing and cheating
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
Main article: Use of performance-enhancing drugs in sport
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
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 by fans in particular is a problem at some national and
international sporting contests.
International level women athletes at ISTAF Berlin, 2006
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (March
See also: Women's sports, Women's professional sports, and Women's
sports in the United States
Female participation in sports 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]
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (March
See also: College sport
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. These risks come from running, basketball,
association football, volleyball, gridiron, gymnastics, and ice
hockey. Youth sports in the US is a $15 billion industry including
equipment up to private coaching.
A runner gives a friendly tap on the shoulder to a wheelchair racer
during the Marathon International de Paris (Paris Marathon) in 2014.
See also: Disabled sports
Disabled sports also adaptive sports or parasports, are sports played
by persons with a disability, including physical and intellectual
disabilities. As many of these based on existing sports modified to
meet the needs of persons with a disability, they are sometimes
referred to as adapted sports. However, not all disabled sports are
adapted; several sports that have been specifically created for
persons with a disability have no equivalent in able-bodied sports.
Spectators at the 1906 unofficial Olympic Games
Main article: Spectator sport
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
Both amateur and professional sports attract spectators, both in
person at the sport venue, and through broadcast media 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
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
Super Bowl Sunday is a de facto national holiday in
America; the viewership being so great that in 2015,
advertising space was reported as being sold at $4.5m for a 30-second
Issues and considerations
Amateur and professional
Modern sports have complex rules and are highly organized.
See also: professional sport and amateur sport
Sport can be undertaken on an amateur, professional or
semi-professional basis, depending on whether participants are
incentivised for participation (usually through payment of a wage or
salary). Amateur participation in sport at lower levels is often
called "grassroots sport".
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. From 1971, Olympic athletes were
allowed to receive compensation and sponsorship, and from 1986,
the IOC decided to make all professional athletes eligible for the
Olympics, with the exceptions of boxing, and
Technology plays an important part in modern sports. With it being a
necessary part of some sports (such as motorsport), it is used in
others to improve performance. Some sports also use it to allow
off-field decision making.
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, from analytics and big
data to wearable technology. 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. For example, in 2010, full-body, non-textile
swimsuits were banned by FINA, as they were enhancing swimmers'
The increase in technology has also allowed many decisions in sports
matches to be taken, or reviewed, off-field, with another official
using instant replays to make decisions. In some sports, players can
now challenge decisions made by officials. In football, Goal-line
technology makes decisions on whether a ball has crossed the goal line
or not. The technology is not compulsory, but was used in the
FIFA World Cup
FIFA World Cup in Brazil, and the 2015
FIFA Women's World Cup
in Canada, as well as in the
Premier League from 2013–14,
Bundesliga from 2015–16. In the NFL, a referee can ask
for a review from the replay booth, or a head coach can issue a
challenge to review the play using replays. The final decision rests
with the referee. A video referee (commonly known as a Television
Match Official or TMO) can also use replays to help decision-making in
rugby (both league and union). In international cricket, an
umpire can ask the
Third umpire for a decision, and the third umpire
makes the final decision. Since 2008, a decision review system
for players to review decisions has been introduced and used in
ICC-run tournaments, and optionally in other matches.
Depending on the host broadcaster, a number of different technologies
are used during an umpire or player review, including instant replays,
Hawk-Eye, Hot Spot and Real Time Snickometer.
Hawk-Eye is also
used in tennis to challenge umpiring decisions.
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Main article: Politics and sports
Sports and politics can influence each other greatly.
Benito Mussolini used the 1934
FIFA World Cup, which was held in
Italy, to showcase Fascist Italy.
Adolf Hitler also used the
1936 Summer Olympics
1936 Summer Olympics held in Berlin, and the
1936 Winter Olympics
1936 Winter Olympics held
in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, to promote the
Nazi ideology of the
superiority of the Aryan race, and inferiority of the Jews and other
"undesirables". Germany used the Olympics to give of itself a
peaceful image while it was very actively preparing the war.
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
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, also known as Rule 42, is
still enforced, but was modified to allow football and rugby to be
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
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
A study of US elections has shown that the result of sports events can
affect the results. A study published in the Proceedings of the
National Academy of Sciences showed that when the home team wins the
game before the election, the incumbent candidates can increase their
share of the vote by 1.5 percent. A loss had the opposite effect, and
the effect is greater for higher-profile teams or unexpected wins and
losses. Also, when
Washington Redskins win their final game before
an election, then the incumbent President is more likely to win, and
if the Redskins lose, then the opposition candidate is more likely to
win; this has become known as the Redskins Rule.
Sports as a means of controlling and subduing populations
Étienne de La Boétie, in his essay Discourse on Voluntary Servitude
describes athletic spectacles as means for tyrants to control their
subjects by distracting them.
Do not imagine that there is any bird more easily caught by decoy, nor
any fish sooner fixed on the hook by wormy bait, than are all these
poor fools neatly tricked into servitude by the slightest feather
passed, so to speak, before their mouths. Truly it is a marvelous
thing that they let themselves be caught so quickly at the slightest
tickling of their fancy. Plays, farces, spectacles, gladiators,
strange beasts, medals, pictures, and other such opiates, these were
for ancient peoples the bait toward slavery, the price of their
liberty, the instruments of tyranny. By these practices and
enticements the ancient dictators so successfully lulled their
subjects under the yoke, that the stupefied peoples, fascinated by the
pastimes and vain pleasures flashed before their eyes, learned
subservience as naïvely, but not so creditably, as little children
learn to read by looking at bright picture books.
Religious views on sports
The practice of athletic competitions has been criticized by some
Christian thinkers as a form of idolatry, in which "human beings extol
themselves, adore themselves, sacrifice themselves and reward
themselves." Sports are seen by these critics as a manifestation
of "collective pride" and "national self-deification" in which feats
of human power are idolized at the expense of divine worship.
Tertullian condemns the athletic performances of his day, insisting
"the entire apparatus of the shows is based upon idolatry." The
shows, says Tertullian, excite passions foreign to the calm
temperament cultivated by the Christian:
God has enjoined us to deal calmly, gently, quietly, and peacefully
with the Holy Spirit, because these things are alone in keeping with
the goodness of His nature, with His tenderness and sensitiveness. ...
Well, how shall this be made to accord with the shows? For the show
always leads to spiritual agitation, since where there is pleasure,
there is keenness of feeling giving pleasure its zest; and where there
is keenness of feeling, there is rivalry giving in turn its zest to
that. Then, too, where you have rivalry, you have rage, bitterness,
wrath and grief, with all bad things which flow from them—the whole
entirely out of keeping with the religion of Christ.
Sports and games portal
Outline of sports
List of sports
List of sportspeople
List of sports
List of sports attendance figures
List of professional sports leagues
New Media and Sports
Animals in sport
Handedness#Advantage in sports
Nationalism and sports
Sport in film
Sports governing body
Sports league attendances
Sports terms named after people
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