Definition of sport

Published April 27, 2009

When we met up with some like-minded F1 fans at the Science Museum in London, the conversation spilled over into the pub and into the evening hours. One of the topics that really got me thinking was how we define sport.

I don’t remember how we got onto the subject, but I imagine it had something to do with our suggestion that if F1 goes down a particular route with the regulations, we’d probably prefer to watch darts instead. That leads to: Is darts a sport?

Working through some of the suggestions that we discussed leads me to no conclusions.

  1. A sport is something you compete in. Good and true, but you can have a chess competition or a game of conkers can become a competition. It’s not a sport, though, is it?
  2. Something that you get paid to compete in. That doesn’t seem to stack up, because I could belong to a local sports club (as if!) and not get paid but still be participating in sports. Those dreaded Sports Days at schools still count as a sport rather than a hobby, don’t they?
  3. Something you need to train your body for. Aaah, now we’re getting somewhere. At first thought, this could be dismissed - F1 is about the cars, the Grand National all about the horses. But there are always people involved, and they always have to train. F1 drivers have great upper body strength, overall fitness and strong neck muscles. Jockeys have to stay slim, and again have good fitness. The only problem with this is when we return to the chess competition analogy. You couldn’t argue with Garry Kasparov that he didn’t put in hundreds of hours of training. There is also the example of snooker. It take practice, sure, but it is not a physical game by any means. Yet it still counts as a sport.

And so, I am stuck. The Cambridge Online Dictionary defines sport as:

"…a game, competition or activity needing physical effort and skill that is played or done according to rules, for enjoyment and/or as a job."

That seems to cover all the above things in a single sentence. If only I’d read that first. Nevertheless, does anyone think differently? Have a better definition? Or can narrow it down even more for us?

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