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sports,athletic games or tests of skill undertaken primarily for the diversion of those who take part or those who observe them. The range is great; usually, however, the term is restricted to any play, pastime, exercise, game, or contest performed under given rules, indoors or outdoors, on an individual or a team basis, with or without competition, but requiring skill and some form of physical exertion.
Some sports, such as huntinghunting,
act of seeking, following, and killing wild animals for consumption or display. It differs from fishing in that it involves only land animals. Hunting was a necessary activity of early humans.
..... Click the link for more information. , fishingfishing,
act of catching fish for consumption or display. Fishing—usually by hand, club, spear, net, and (at least as early as 23,000 years ago) by hook—was known to prehistoric people.
..... Click the link for more information. , running, and swimmingswimming,
self-propulsion through water, often as a form of recreation or exercise or as a competitive sport. It is mentioned in many of the classics in connection with heroic acts or religious rites.
..... Click the link for more information. , derive from the rhythms and work requirements of primitive everyday life. Some, such as riding, shooting, throwing the javelin, or archery derive from early military practices. Still others, like boxingboxing,
sport of fighting with fists, also called pugilism and prizefighting. Early History
Depicted on the walls of tombs at Beni Hasan in Egypt, dating from about 2000 to 1500 B.C., boxing is one of the oldest forms of competition.
..... Click the link for more information. , wrestling, and jumping, arose from the spontaneous challenges and occasional hostilities that accompany human interaction.
Development of Sports
The precise origins of many sports remain obscure, although all cultures have known physical contests. The ancient Egyptians swam, raced, wrestled, and played games with balls. The ancient Greeks held large athletic festivals, including the Olympic gamesOlympic games,
premier athletic meeting of ancient Greece, and, in modern times, series of international sports contests. The Olympics of Ancient Greece
Although records cannot verify games earlier than 776 B.C.
..... Click the link for more information. , that drew athletes from all over the ancient world. The Greeks, and then the Romans, also competed in events (chariot races, throwing the javelin) that relied on the participation of animals or the use of mechanical contrivances, a tradition continued into modern times in sports such as dog racing, horse racing, and shooting.
During the Middle Ages, the cultural isolation imposed by the feudal system and religious doctrine that opposed the use of the body for play hampered the development of organized sport in the Western world. For many centuries, contests between knights in tournaments that emphasized military skill were among the only forms of approved, public sports. In the Renaissance and Enlightenment periods, games and exercise attained renewed popularity. As had been the case in ancient times, however, politics and social class circumscribed activity. Sports that required wealth or leisure, such as polo or falconry, were the province of the upper classes, while inexpensive, massed sports, such as soccer, took root among commoners.
The late 19th cent. witnessed an expanding belief in sport as useful recreation, and in industrialized societies equipment was standardized, local and national organizations were set up to govern play, and a doctrine of character-building declared sports to be a necessary endeavor for men. The revival of the Olympics in 1896 and the blossoming U.S. intercollegiate athletic system boosted many forms of amateur, or unpaid, sports at the same time that professional sports (such as baseball, boxing, and bicycle racing) drew large numbers of spectators. Sports that were traditionally played in various countries became, by legislative act or general acceptance, national sports—baseballbaseball,
bat-and-ball sport known as the national pastime of the United States. It derives its name from the four bases that form a diamond (the infield) around the pitcher's mound.
..... Click the link for more information. in the United States, bullfightingbullfighting,
national sport and spectacle of Spain. Called the corrida de toros in Spanish, the bullfight takes place in a large outdoor arena known as the plaza de toros.
..... Click the link for more information. in Spain and Mexico, cricketcricket,
ball-and-bat game played chiefly in Great Britain and the Commonwealth countries. Basic Rules
Cricket is played by two teams of eleven on a level, closely cut oval "pitch" preferably measuring about 525 ft (160 m) by about 550 ft (170 m).
..... Click the link for more information. in England, and ice hockey (see hockey, icehockey, ice,
team sport in which players use sticks to propel a hard, round disk into a net-backed goal. Rules and Equipment
Ice hockey is played on a rectangular rink with curved corners whose length may vary from 184 to 200 ft (56–61 m), its width from 85
..... Click the link for more information. ) in Canada.
During the Great Depression, Americans sought inexpensive outlets for their energies; mass participation in sports such as softballsoftball,
variant of baseball played with a larger ball on a smaller field. Invented (1888) in Chicago as an indoor game, it was at various times called indoor baseball, mush ball, playground ball, kitten ball, and, because it was also played by women, ladies' baseball.
..... Click the link for more information. and bowlingbowling,
indoor sport, also called tenpins, played by rolling a ball down an alley at ten pins; for lawn bowling, see bowls. Bowling is one of the most popular participatory sports in the United States, where there are thousands of recreational leagues.
..... Click the link for more information. resulted. At the same time, spectator sports burgeoned, and the commercialism that accompanied them gradually engulfed both amateur and professional sports. By the late 20th cent., the televising of athletic events had made sports big business. On the other hand, expanding public concern with personal physical health led to mass participation, not necessarily competitive, in sports like running, hiking, cycling, martial arts, and gymnastics. Athletic activity by women expanded, especially after political action in the 1960s and 1970s opened doors to many forms of competition and an increased share of public funding for sports.
During the 20th cent., sports took on an increasingly international flavor; aside from the world championships for individual sports, like soccer's World Cup, large-scale international meets, such as the Pan-American gamesPan-American games,
amateur athletic competition among representatives of countries in the Western Hemisphere. The competition, held every four years, follows the organization and eligibility rules of the Olympic games and is held in the year before the Olympics in different
..... Click the link for more information. and the Commonwealth gamesCommonwealth games,
series of amateur athletic meets held among citizens of countries in the Commonwealth of Nations. Originated (1930) as the British Empire games, the series is held every four years and is patterned after the Olympic games; women have participated since 1934.
..... Click the link for more information. , were inaugurated. Sports have correspondingly become increasingly politicized, as shown in the boycott of the 1980 Moscow games by Western nations and the retaliatory boycott of the 1984 Los Angeles games by Soviet-bloc nations, an exchange brought on by Soviet actions in Afghanistan.
See A. Guttmann, From Ritual to Record: The Nature of Modern Sports (1978); J. A. Cuddon, The International Dictionary of Sports and Games (1979); W. J. Baker, Sports in the Western World (rev. ed. 1989); B. G. Rader, American Sports (2d ed. 1990); R. A. Smith, Sports and Freedom: The Rise of Big-Time College Athletics (1990).