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History Of Sports

Updated on October 22, 2011

Various games have been played since our early ancestors lived in caves during the Stone Age. The oldest of all sports is probably hunting. Prehistoric people had to hunt animals for food, but they would proudly show off their skill with the bow or spear.

The ancient Egyptians enjoyed hunting and chariot racing 4,000 years ago. People also practiced fishing and bird trapping.

Centuries later in the 776 BC, the Greeks who admired physical strength and skill greatly, began a series of competitions known as the Olympic Games. Runners, wrestlers, and throwers took part as did artists and poets. The Romans also appreciated athletic skills, although they preferred sporting spectacles which attracted huge crowds. In that age, throughout the Empire people flocked to the arenas to watch races and fights between the gladiators, who were trained to fight one another.

In Rome there was a Circus Maximus, a huge arena used for horse racing. It was even larger than the sports stadiums of today that could hold almost 250,000 people. Many Roman athletes were professionals who were paid to run, wrestle, ride horses or fight. They were all men as it was unknown for women to take part in organized sports until modern times. Many women from wealthier families, however, enjoyed horse riding and other outdoor sports such as falconry (hunting birds with trained falcons).

A number of traditional sports were war-like and were helpful in training men for battle. In Europe during the Middle Ages tournaments were held in which armoured knights fought mock battles, called jousts. Warriors on horse back loved to show off their skill. The ancient Indians and Persians played polo, a game that is somewhat like hockey on horse back that was invented by the skilful horsemen of the central plains. Archery, or shooting at targets with bows and arrows was also a favourite sport in many parts of the world and continues till today.

However, not all sports were connected with war. People also enjoyed playing ball games and many different forms were invented. The Mayan people of Central America played a game that involved throwing a ball through a ring fixed to the wall of a specially build court (rather like basketball), but it is not known exactly how it was played. In north America, the Indians enjoyed a game called Baggataway, from which grew the modern game of lacrosse. In Europe an early form of tennis was played in a walled court. Henry VIII of England, a keen sportsman, built a court at Hampton Court palace in 1529. At country fairs and market places, ordinary people enjoyed watching wrestlers, jugglers, acrobats and archers. They also took pleasure in cruel sports such as bear-baiting and cock-fighting. Bowls and skittles were played in the Middle Ages in much the same way as we know them today.

Sports for all

The ancient Greeks were well aware of the importance of sports. They believed that participating in sports activities would provide exercise for the whole body, making it healthier while giving vent to stress. They also believed that this would help develop the mind and character. They considered sports to be as important as science or arts. During the 19th century people in Europe and America began to think in the same way.

The 19th century was the time of the Industrial Revolution. More and more people were moving from the country side to work in factories in towns. Schools and universities were the first to take sports seriously, but town workers soon followed suit and formed their own sports clubs. Games such as cricket and football had emerged in an extremely haphazard manner with no fixed rules. Gradually they were organized with governing associations, rules and proper clubs playing matches against each other. The modern rules of many games including football, cricket, hockey, baseball, tennis and many more, were drawn up at this time.

As sports developed, argument arose over the difference between a professional and an amateur. In 1896, the Olympic Games which had ceased to take place about in AD 394 were revived by a French man, Baron Pierre de Coubertin. He believed that international sporting competitions would encourage goodwill and peace between nations. Since 1896, Olympic Games have been held every four years except during the two world wars (1914-18 and 1939-45). All Olympic competitors were supposed to be amateurs, but in recent years a number of sports have removed the distinction between amateurs and professionals. Sports men and sports women may be full time athletes, earning a living from their sport.

At the Olympic Games and world championships, people are thrilled to see the strength and grace of the gymnasts, and the track and field athletes. In athletics, competitors try not only to beat each other, but to improve the performance of the individual events.

There are running races for distances ranging from 100 metres to the marathon (26 miles and 385 yards, or 42,195 m), and field events that include high jump, long jump. Javelin and discus throw and shot putt. Athletic events may be held indoors as well as out doors. The athletes train for hours each day to keep their bodies at the peak of physical fitness.

Popular team games

Almost everyone enjoys playing with a ball. The simple act of throwing, hitting or kicking a ball has been developed into many different games.

Football is the most popular team game in the world. Some people believe that the Romans played a form of football; it was played in the Middle Ages as a rough and few rules. Later, different forms or codes of football were invented.

The most popular type of football is Association football, or soccer, which is played in almost every country. Soccer is extremely popular in Europe and South America. Soccer ball is round whereas tumble village game with that of rugby is egg-shaped. Rugby began in 1823 when a boy picked a ball during a game of football and ran with it. Britain is therefore the home of rugby, which is also played to a great extent in France, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina and Fiji. American ‘grid-iron' football dates from 1873 when college students agreed on a set of rules. It is very popular in the United States and has spread to other countries. Australia and Canada also have their own variation of national football games.

Cricket, which dates back from the 18th century, is the national summer game in England, and is played in many other countries, especially the West Indies, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India and in Pakistan .

A bat and ball game different from cricket is baseball, popular in the United States, which is somewhat like the old game of rounders.

A stick rather than a bat is used for hockey. Field hockey is played either on grass or hard pitches, while ice hockey, the fastest of all team games, is played on an indoor ice rink.

Basketball, volleyball and handball are indoor team games. Net ball, similar to basket ball is played outdoors.

Today professional team sports are big business. Famous players earn lots of money and huge crowds pay to watch the top teams. Yet, many people enjoy playing in local matches where the only prize is the excitement.

Singles and pairs

Apart from the team games, players compete either alone or with another partner. They include indoor court games such as badminton, tennis, table tennis and squash. The most popular of single and pair games is tennis. The most famous tennis championship is the Wimbledon tournament; it was first played in 1877 in London and now is the only important championship that is still played on grass.

Fast and dangerous sports

Winter sports were played by people living in the colder regions. Today, many people travel to a cold resort to enjoy winter sports. The Winter Olympics were first held in 1924 and since then are held after every four years.

Speed sports can be dangerous but they attract many people. Motor car racing was invented soon after the invention of the motor car in 1880s. Motor cycle races are also held on road circuits and muddy ‘scramble' courses. Cycle racing depends greatly on the pedal power of the rider, who must be a highly trained athlete.

Water sports are fun all year round and swimming is one of the best forms of exercise. So is rowing. Rowing, yacht racing, board sailing, surfing, powerboat racing, water skiing and scuba diving are all popular water sports. Eskimos of the arctic invented the kayak canoe, which today is paddled by many for fun.


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    • profile image

      ani 7 years ago

      it's very good

    • Sorrel profile image

      Sorrel 8 years ago from France

      an intersting look at different sports through the ages and cultures, and the importance in everyday life.

      Well done