Whether it was ancient Rome or the earliest civilizations, children have always engaged in physical activity and games, including sports. Prehistoric paintings depict hunters chasing prey with joyful abandon. While the term “sport” is used for competition in many countries, other bodies advocate a broader definition of sport. For example, the Council of Europe includes all forms of physical exercise and games played for enjoyment. This broad definition would include all sports, not just those practiced for money or glory.
For centuries, sport has involved fighting, wrestling, and other combat activities. In 1582, 50 Turks competed in a wrestling contest in Istanbul to celebrate the circumcision of Murad III’s son. Today, Indian wrestlers are dedicated to a holy life and perform push-ups while reciting a holy mantra. Their diet, sexual behavior, and breathing and urination habits are strictly controlled, and they follow a strict dietary plan.
In colonial America, sports were extremely popular. While in England, hunting was a privilege reserved for landowners, the abundance of game in North America meant that it was socially neutral and accessible to everyone. In 1691, Sir Francis Nicholson organized sporting competitions for a “better class” of Virginians. These competitions involved the owners of horses, trainers, and spectators from all social strata. In some cases, two sides fought.