Sports are generally governed by some kind of codes or traditions, that help to ensure fair play, and ensure consistent adjudication of the results. In less organized sport, records of past performance are normally maintained, and this information can be openly announced or leaked by the sport in question. The same goes for professional sport. It is also important that sport authorities maintain standards of dress and conduct that maintain fair play, encourage clean sport, and give some degree of protection to competitors. It is not unknown for sports governing bodies to hand out sanctions and fine teams for inappropriate attire, or to suspend players, or even to deny them a sportsmanship allowance for some instances.
The very definition of a sport, in its broadest sense, is the activity in which participants engage with each other in competitive conditions, using tools, including weapons, to try to achieve a particular objective. But even here there are various defining criteria, for example, in swimming it is not just the competitive swimming that counts, but the way that the swimmer manoeuvres in relation to the water and his opponents. Similarly in most other sports there are defined standards of behaviour and ethics, which help to remove the need for subjective human judgment to decide how a game should be played. This includes rules and regulations governing the use of steroids, banned performance enhancing drugs, head gear, padding and all other equipment.
In America, the most common definition of a sport can be seen to be found in the Olympic Games, especially as they are sponsored by major corporations. The Olympic Games has evolved over the decades, from being just an event that countries entered to win, to a highly competitive sporting event, with wide ranging disciplines, awards and recognition. There are also sports which are more closely associated with national clubs, with a defined set of activities that athletes perform to maintain a specific level of skill. These would include golf, running, bowling and fishing. However, since there are no restrictions on the definition of a sport as such, there are any number of different definitions of what it means to be a sport, both from popular perception and officialdom.
With this in mind, it’s important that we don’t get caught up in the narrow definition and start asking new questions about the nature of Sports, and its definition. Some people have argued that “Sport” is an empty term, without any meaning. In fact, many sports have never been recognized as legitimate sports by the International Olympic Committee, due to their definition and manipulation by governing bodies to promote certain events. Other people have made the point that the Olympic Committee has a very skewed definition of what constitutes a legitimate sport. As well, the games themselves are hugely lucrative for those governing the games, with huge contracts, prize money and benefits for all participants.
So, what are the criteria used to define a sport? In general terms, sport refers to any physical activity involving an interaction of human beings in order to overcome challenges or enjoy competition. Some people make the mistake of looking at sports and defining them by the activities involved, such as football and baseball. While these sports certainly fit into the realm of sport, they are not the only games that constitute sporting activities. Another common definition is motor sport, which includes any event in which vehicles are raced or driven, whether on a track, in a dirt track, etc. Motor sport can also include any competitive riding, with any type of equestrian, sailing, swimming, etc.
But there is more to sports than these broad definitions. There are many different types of activity involving physical skill, where the goal of the game is the completion of a task with a minimum amount of physical exertion. These include competitive sports like golf and tennis, horse racing, ice climbing, bungee jumping, skydiving, triathlon, surfing, sledding, and swimming. This gives a wider scope of sports to consider, including many more that we haven’t even thought of. Indeed, any activity involving physical exertion – even jogging – qualifies!