Defining sport is a very complex matter; the term constantly evolves to cover new ranges of human behavior. Indeed, the well-known philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein argues that sports are defined, not by a set of common characteristics, but by new activities sharing some common aspects with existing sports, but not necessarily sharing any common characteristics with all. Credence to this comment may be taken from the ever-more-diverse set of activities that are at least claimed by some as sports - from chess to cheerleading, from sheepdog trials to ballroom dancing. What do all of those activities have in common?
However, many of the above would not be recognised as sports by fans of more traditionally-recognised sports, and using Wittgenstein's "extension" approach it would be quite reasonable to claim a "battle of the bands" competition as a sporting event and thus playing rock and roll as a sport, a definition which makes "sport" so broad as to be potentially useless and quite different to the common understanding, fuzzy though that may be.
A more pragmatic approach to defining sport may be to look at common usage of the term. It was originally used to describe the animal and bird-killing activities (such as shooting, fishing and fox hunting) of the English aristocracy, whereas the precursors of modern team sports played by the lower classes were termed "games". However, as time progressed, perhaps with the beginnings of the modern Olympic movement in the late 19th century, "sport" began to be used to describe a wide range of athletic pursuits. However, sport retained, and still retains an implication of respectability and seriousness that a mere "game" or "hobby" does not, and organizations responsible for leisure activities continually seek recognition as sports by joining sports federations such as the IOC. These bodies are seemingly fairly inclusive as to what they are prepared to accept as sports, and thus the activities listed above, amongst others, have been accepted.
However, it is possible to make a reasonable operational definition of sport using characteristics most sports do have in common. Such an operational definition can be found below:
|Table of contents|
2.5 Animal Sports
2.6 Combat Sports
2.8 Extreme sports
2.10 Motorized Sports
2.12 Outdoor Sports
2.13 Power Sports
2.14 Racket Sports
2.16 Skiing / Snowsports
2.18 Target Sports
2.19 Team Sports
2.20 Mind Sports
2.21 Water Sports
One system for classifying sports is as follows, based more on the sport's aim than on the actual mechanics. The examples given are intended to be illustrative, rather than comprehensive.
The following is an attempt to list the most important sports, divided by category. These categories are based on how the sport is played, and there are many more sports to be added. This system has the disadvantage that that some sports may fit in more than one category. Here they are only listed in one.
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