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 andjousting.
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 thePeloponnesus 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 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.
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.
Amateur and professional
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).
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.
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