Sports are generally governed by some set of unwritten rules or traditions, which ensure fair play, and enable consistent adjudication of a winner. In popular sports, statistics of previous performance are kept, and this information can be openly announced or reported to the audience in attendance. However, in less popular sports, such as motor-bicycle racing, where speed is the object of the contest, it is not always possible to get accurate information, because of the very nature of the sport in question.
The definition of sport, according to the Collins English Dictionary, is ‘the use of sports or exercises for amusement, sportsmanship or exercise’. By this definition, the meaning of sport has been stretched to include any form of physical exertion, including activities undertaken through competitive sports. Thus, running, for example, is not a form of sport. Similarly, football, tennis or swimming is not a sport. Therefore, even though professional athletes are paid large sums of money to compete in sporting events, they are still not regarded as sportspeople, since they are performing ‘work’ – training and working out. They are professionals in their chosen field of activity.
The definition of sport as we know it today was devised by the British philosopher and statistician George Weats. In his book, A History of the Glorious Sport of Football, he provides a detailed and inclusive description of the development of the term, from its humble beginnings as ‘the battle of the sexes’, to its current meaning of ‘a competition of athletic events’, ‘a contest between two bodies’, and ‘a mode of diversion for theimes’. It would be misleading to pretend that the evolution of the word itself was a smooth one, with each taking a similar form over time. For instance, during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, the game of croquet was regarded as a physical activity that was acceptable for the upper classes, while fencing was often regarded as an exercise for the lower classes.
The word sport was then taken over by the French, who used it to describe a game of war. The word became popular in English with the coming of cricket, which was played between teams of warring nations. The game has developed greatly from its humble beginnings, becoming a highly competitive activity involving physical exertion, skill, strategy, commitment, endurance, commitment and teamwork. Today, there are many different types of sport: golf, tennis, swimming, hockey, horse racing, cricket, rugby, rowing, golf, sailing, motor-bike racing, track and field, racing car racing, cricket, American football, ice skating, badminton, swimming, golf, surfing, sailing and snorkelling. However, the most popular and widely enjoyed our ice-skating, swimming and horse-riding.
While the above represents the major traditional sports, there are also other less well-known sports that have developed over time, with definitions changing from country to country. For example, polo and beach volleyball are considered sports, but they are not included within the definition of sport as they are more generic than athletic in nature. The International Olympic committee (IOC) is currently reviewing a proposal to add a sports definition to their Olympic charter, a move likely to be successful.
The meaning of sports is largely dependent on the activities involved. Any activity involving physical exertion is included, whether it is team sports individual sports or competitive dancing. As such many people consider athletics to be a form of team sports. Sports also have social significance, particularly sports which are known to promote social values such as fair play, respect, discipline, and physical dexterity. Sports, therefore, provide an ideal framework for teaching values, discipline, teamwork, and good sportsmanship to children and young people all over the world.