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 bothchess 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.
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.
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