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 winner.
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 artistic impression.
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.
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.
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 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 controversial.
Artifacts and structures suggest sport in China as early as 2000 BC. 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.