The Relationship Between Sport and Society
Any definition of sport can be controversial. In most practical terms however, the sport has generally been operationalized by its strict association with competitive activity and its social meaning as a domain of individual endeavor and competition. It is the competitions and activities that shaped the contours of the sport domain, particularly since early times when gladiators, running horses, and other physical obstacles were routinely used as the arenas for athletic contest. The first sport to take these forms was running, which initially presented an uphill struggle against another runner. Over time the physical nature of the contest was changed to incorporate walking or hopping, eventually to include wrestling, jousting, shooting, and the arena was established for the “sport” of boxing.
With the development of more sophisticated equipment and greater levels of skill and physical capacity, the sport began to take on a new and more professional meaning, one that was largely confined to formal competition among specialized teams and athletes engaged in defined tasks. Thus, from early times until the turn of the twentieth century, sports events were mainly characterized by a competitive spirit of challenge and achievement in the service of some larger social goals. Today, sport refers to a wide range of activities that may include military activities, high-level competitive games, outdoor games, competitions organized and held by schools and other educational institutions, organized sports events, and even television and film programs devoted to the various forms of competitive athletics and other forms of extreme sports. It is also the object of intense cultural and political interest in most parts of the world.
Sport, both in its strict and inclusive sense, has remained a major force in society through all human history. Through sporting events, the forces of nature, specifically competition and violence, are tempered by the recognition of common humanity, and the shared desire to participate and push ourselves to the limits of our ability. In this way, sport becomes a great unifier, unifying different groups and strata of society under the common banner of achievement and success. As such, the sport has had a significant positive effect on the way people live their lives.