Sport is now an integral part of society. Even imagining a modern-day society without sport is somewhat absurd. Apart from its obvious benefits of keeping individuals fit and providing entertainment to spectators, the recreational method has become a big player in the economy.

At present, there are dozens of sports played with a different number of participants. In certain sports such as running, many contestants may compete with one winner while in others, the contest is between two sides, each attempting to beat the other. In some sports, the game might end in a ‘tie’ or a ‘draw’ if neither of the two teams manages to come out on top. In that case, the final result can be decided by the tie-breaker methods.

There are a well-defined set of rules to make sure that the games are played in the right spirit and competition is fair. The rules for determining the winner varies in different games. Winning can be determined by physical events such as scoring the winning runs or scoring goals. It can also be determined by judges who are scoring elements of the sporting performance, including objective or subjective measures such as technical performance or artistic impression.

Track and Field Sports.

As much as participants or athletes are important for games, the fans are also an irreplaceable part of it. While sports provide entertainment for the spectators, the latter make sure to provide them with fanfare, the money and fame. The success is pretty much determined by how popular it is among the fans.

The coronavirus pandemic has further shown the importance of sports in modern society. Not only the spectators have been starved of entertainment but the economy has taken a hit too in addition to thousands of people losing their jobs. While only time will tell the future of games after the world recovers from the pandemic, but it was enjoying a very fruitful period before that.

According to Business Wire, the global sports market reached a value of nearly $488.5 billion in 2018, having grown at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.3% since 2014. The report stated that the market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 5.9% to nearly $614.1 billion by 2022.

History of sport

Origin of the word sport

The word “sport” comes from the Old French desport meaning “leisure”. On the other hand, the oldest definition in English dates back to around 1300 meaning “anything humans find amusing or entertaining”. Roget’s defines the noun as an “activity engaged in for relaxation and amusement”.

Track and field sport
Image Credits: Twitter

Difference between sport and leisure activities

SportAccord, which is the association for all the largest international sports federations, has perhaps given the most correct definition in order to separate sports from leisure activities. SportAccord uses the following criteria, determining that a sport should:

  • The sport proposed should include an element of competition.
  • The sport should not rely on any element of “luck” specifically integrated into the sport.
  • The sport should not be judged to pose an undue risk to the health and safety of its athletes or participants.
  • The sport proposed should in no way be harmful to any living creature.
  • The sport should not rely on equipment that is provided by a single supplier.

According to them, it can be primarily physical, primarily mind, predominantly motorised, primarily co-ordination, or primarily animal-supported.

The history of sports dates back to as early as 2000 BC thanks to artefacts and structures in China. In other parts of the world, ancient Egypt conducted and regulated a number of games including swimming, javelin throwing, high jump thousands of years ago.

In ancient Persia, there are proofs of sports such as the traditional Iranian martial art of Zourkhaneh, polo and jousting. Ancient Greece then took a huge step in the development of sports by creating the Olympic Games, which in ancient times were held every four years in a small village in the Peloponnesus called Olympia.

Here is a brief history of some of the major sports


Cricket has its origin in south-east England sometime in the late 16th century. By the 18th century, it had become the national sport, making inroads globally in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The early form of cricket differed from the modern game in certain key technical aspects. The ball was bowled underarm by the bowler and along the ground towards a batsman armed with a bat that, in shape, resembled a hockey stick.


The British Empire was instrumental in spreading the game overseas and by the middle of the 19th century it had become well established in Australia, the Caribbean, India, New Zealand, North America and South Africa. In 1844, the first-ever international match took place between the United States and Canada.


The history of football, also called association football or soccer, can be traced back more than 2,000 years to ancient China, where it all began with a bunch of players kicking an animal-hide ball around. The Chinese competitive game cuju, as stated by FIFA, is the earliest form of football.

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, Football
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Image Credits: Twitter

The game came to the fore in England during the mid-19th Century, and it’s the English who can claim credit for codifying the first uniform rules for the sport.


The evolution of baseball from older bat-and-ball games is difficult to trace with precision. References to games resembling baseball in the United States date back to the 18th century.

Baseball. Image Credits: Twitter

In September 1845, a group of men from New York founded the New York Knickerbocker Baseball Club. One of them—volunteer firefighter and bank clerk Alexander Joy Cartwright— codified a new set of rules that would form the basis for modern baseball, calling for a diamond-shaped infield, foul lines and the three-strike rule. In 1846, the Knickerbockers played the first official game of baseball against a team of cricket players


The only major sport strictly of U.S. origin, basketball was invented by James Naismith in 1891, at the International Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) Training School (now Springfield College), Springfield, Massachusetts, where he was an instructor in physical education. In the following year, the first formal rules for basketball were devised in 1892. 

Lebron James, Basketball
Image Credits: Twitter

Basketball was originally played with a soccer ball. These round balls from association football were made, at the time, with a set of laces to close off the hole needed for inserting the inflatable bladder after the other sewn-together segments of the ball’s cover had been flipped outside-in


Rugby is said to have originated at Rugby School in Warwickshire, England, in 1823 when during a game of football, William Webb Ellis decided to pick up a ball and ran with it. Although there is very little evidence to support this theory, the Rugby World Cup Trophy is now named after William Webb Ellis.

Rugby. Image Credits: Twitter

In 1863 a collection of boarding schools and clubs decided upon a rule set and in 1871 Rugby Football Union was officially formed. That same year, the first-ever international match was played between England and Scotland.


The modern game of Golf is descended from a game that originated in the Kingdom of Fife on the eastern coast of Scotland during the 15th century. Golf’s ancient origins are unclear and much debated as well as tough to trace. 

Tiger Woods hits from the first hole during the final round for the Masters golf tournament Sunday, April 14, 2019, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Some historians trace the sport back to the Roman game of paganica, in which participants used a bent stick to hit a stuffed leather ball. One theory asserts that paganica spread throughout Europe as the Romans conquered most of the continent, during the first century BC, and eventually evolved into the modern game.

Field Hockey

The history of games played with curved sticks and a ball can be found in the histories of many cultures and thus the roots of hockey are very unclear. Historical records show that a crude form of the game was played in Egypt 4,000 years ago and in Ethiopia around 1,000BC, whilst an ancient form of the game was also played in Iran in around 2,000BC.

Field Hockey
Field Hockey. Image Credits: Twitter

The modern game of hockey emerged in England in the mid-18th century. The first Hockey Association was formed in the UK in 1876 and drew up the first formal set of rules.

Lawn Tennis

As far as the modern version of the game is concerned, it is recognized that a British army officer Walter Clopton Wingfield invented rules for tennis, later calling it ‘lawn tennis’ in 1873. He had noticed a significant commercial potential of lawn tennis and patented the game, though he failed to justify its creation.

Tennis. Image Credits: Twitter

Winfield said that he had borrowed the principles of the Greek game called “Sphairistike” (Greek for playing ball). According to Honor Godfrey, museum curator at Wimbledon, Wingfield “popularized this game enormously. He produced a boxed set which included a net, poles, rackets, balls for playing the game – and most importantly you had his rules. He was absolutely terrific at marketing and he sent his game all over the world. He had very good connections with the clergy, the law profession, and the aristocracy and he sent thousands of sets out in the first year or so, in 1874.”


William Morgan invented volleyball in 1895 at the Holyoke, Massachusetts, YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) where he served as Director of Physical Education. The game was originally called Mintonette.

Volleyball. Image Credits: Twitter

However, after an observer, Alfred Halstead noticed the volleying nature of the game at its first exhibition match in 1896, played at the International YMCA Training School (now called Springfield College), the game quickly became known as volleyball.

Gender participation in sports

Sports is one of the most powerful platforms for promoting gender equality. Traditionally, it has been dominated by men, both in terms of participation and governance. Women were excluded from the first modern Olympic Games, held in Athens in 1896, and were only allowed to start joining in four years later. The gender gap still exists but the improvement has been really promising.

Women Sports
Women Sports. Image Credits: Twitter

The number of women competing at the Olympic Games has significantly increased – from 34 per cent at Atlanta 1996 to an expected new record of 48.8 per cent at Tokyo 2020, according to the International Olympic Committee.

Disabled participation in sports

Disabled sports also called adaptive sports or parasports, are sports played by persons with a disability, including physical and intellectual disabilities. As many of these are based on existing games modified to meet the needs of persons with a disability, they are sometimes referred to as adapted sports. At the same time, there are several games which have been specifically created for persons with a disability.

In 1960 the first quadrennial Olympic-style Games for disabled athletes were held in Rome; the quadrennial Winter Games were added in 1976, in Sweden. Since the Seoul 1988 Olympic Games (and the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France), the Paralympics have been held at the Olympic venues and have used the same facilities.

Disabled Sports
Image Credits: Twitter

Over the years, the Paralympics has increased by leaps and bounds. The Paralympics in 1960 hosted 400 athletes from 23 countries participating in eight sports. Just over 50 years later, at the 2016 Summer Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 4,342 athletes represented 159 countries.

Technology in sports

There is hardly any sector in modern society which does not incorporate technology and sport sector is not an exception either. Technology has become an integral part. In fact, there are some sports like motorsport which can’t survive without technology.

Here are some examples of technology used in sports:


Goal-Line Technology (GLT)

In 2012, the International Football Association Board (IFAB) approved GLT. The technology was used for the first time ever in the World Cup and helped award a goal to France against Honduras.

Video Assistance Referees (VAR)

VAR is now being used in major football leagues across Europe. The technology is applied only to key decisions, such as goals, red cards and penalties. VAR was tested for the first time in the Eredivisie, Holland’s top-tier football league in 2012. In 2016,  VAR was introduced during a friendly between France and Italy, with the successful trial leading to a pitchside monitor in the FIFA Club World Cup.

Video Assistant Referee (VAR)
Image Credits: Getty Images

A year later, Australia’s A-league became the first to use VAR in a top-flight professional league, with the MLS, Bundesliga and Serie A following suit. VAR was used for the first time in England in an FA cup game and La Liga introduced the technology for the 2018 – 19 season. In the 2019-20 season, VAR is being used in Premier League as well as at every stage of the Champions League.


Data tracking

In 2010, Bradford Bulls became the first team to use GPS tracking to collect data and stats on player performance. From 2016, sensors are being placed under the player’s jerseys to track heart rate, field positions, fatigue, rehabilitation and injury prevention.

Video technology

In 2001, video referees were introduced in rugby union to help with decisions relating to scoring a try. In 2015, Hawk-Eye video review technology was used by the television match official (TMO) to improve decision making. Previously, the TMO had to ask TV producers to rewind coverage on large TVs in order to find and analyse specific camera shots.

Virtual reality

Virtual reality equipment was introduced in the sport of rugby in 2016. A VR app allowed England fans to compare their reaction times against ex-players Martin Johnson and Lawrence Dallaglio.

VR Rugby
Image Credits: Twitter

Three years later in 2019, VR headsets started being used by some club and international teams to create simulated rugby scenarios such as line-outs, high balls and first-phase attacks in order to improve players’ mental learning, visualisation and decision-making.


Hawk-Eye Line-Calling System

In 2001, an electronic computer system was developed to track the trajectory of the ball and displays its path as a moving 3D image. The system uses high-performance cameras, which track the ball from different angles. In 2006, the technology was used for the first time in competitions, allowing the players to challenge a number of umpire decisions per set.

Radar Guns

In 1991, IBM serve-speed technology was first introduced at Wimbledon. Two radar sensors at the baseline of each side of the court record the speed of the ball once it’s hit. The data for each player’s serve is automatically recorded on IBM’s central tournament database.


Hawk-Eye technology

This technology helps in tracking the ball. The third umpire gets to use this technology and the accurate pitch map helps in taking a near-perfect decision. It also helps in determining the point of impact, the bounce of the ball, swing and turn, the length of the ball. The technology has helped the officials to minimise errors in the game.


By graphically analysing the audio and video during a cricket game, the Snickometer identifies whether there has been a snick. This technology has helped umpires to find the contact point of the ball. The result of the contact point is reflected in the sound-waves of the recorded audio.

The global popularity of sports

According to World Atlas, the popularity of sports by the size of their fan base is:

Rank Sport Fans Sphere
1 Association football 4 billion Global
2 Cricket 2.5 billion UK and Commonwealth
3 Field hockey 2 billion Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia
4 Tennis 1 billion Global
5 Volleyball 900 million Global
6 Table tennis 875 million Global
7 Basketball 825 million Global
8 Baseball 500 million United States, Caribbean, and East Asia
9 Rugby 475 million UK, Commonwealth, and Other Countries
10 Golf 450 million Western Europe, East Asia, and North America

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