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To ask how do you define an activity as being a sport?

(43 Posts)
LikeDylanInTheMovies Mon 08-Aug-16 00:46:06

Watching the early stages of the Olympics has provoked a debate in chez Dylan.

Are all the events in the Olympics actually sports? After watching the target shooting and the gymnastic events, there was some discussion whether they were sports or not. I argued weren't sports for different reasons.

It is a vexed issue and I admit that I have a narrow definition of sport, for an activity to qualify as a sport it must:

A)Require cardio-vascular fitness (a grey area I know,)
B) Be competitive and rank the competitors in order.(So that knocks out Yoga and cycling to work)
C) The outcome decided by the contestants, not an outside observer or judge. Sports have referees who enforce the rules, but don't decide the outcome.

I'm not doubting that both target shooting and gymnastics at the top level require a tremendous degree of skill, hardwork and dedication, but I'd question either of them were sports for different reasons.

Both activities meet the criteria that they are competitive and the competitors are ranked in order and the outcome decided by an objective criteria. But in the case of target shooting, the effort of aiming and pulling the trigger puts next to no extra strain on the cardiovascular system. If shooting is considered a sport, why not bridge or draughts?

Conversely gymnastics requires an astonishing degree of athleticism and cardio-vascular fitness, but the outcome of the contest is determined by a set of subjective criteria. The event is decided by an outside observer and a decision that x routine has a 7.3 degree of difficulty and another has 6.2. There's also the capacity for the judges to interpret how well the routine has been executed and scoring for artistry. If so, could Strictly or even the X Factor be considered sports events?

This is purely a mental exercise and I'm not doubting the commitment and talent of anyone who takes part in either activity. I realise that there is no way you could exclude all judged events from the Olympics such as synchronised swimming, diving, dressage and there are grey areas like whether boxing is a sport if the contest is won by a knockout and not if decided by a judges' decision and that's before you get onto the thorny issue of motor racing! However I am struggling to find another working definition of a sport.

How does everyone else define an activity as a sport and where do you stand on gymnastics and shooting as sports?

NapQueen Mon 08-Aug-16 00:48:02

Something which is competitive and done for fun.

MaudeandHarold Mon 08-Aug-16 00:51:10

"Wearing trainers and featured on Grandstand" Quote by some darts player on whether he was a sportsman.

LikeDylanInTheMovies Mon 08-Aug-16 00:54:36

Nap would a game of monopoly or a pub quiz count as a sport then? If so I've had a very sporty week!

altik Mon 08-Aug-16 00:55:54

Hmm,

I'd agree with A and B but not C. The Oxford English Dictionary defines sport as:

"An activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment."

I think that's a pretty good definition, and I don't think the score needs to be internal to be classified as a sport. I think that's pretty spurious myself, but the rest I'd agree with.

a8mint Mon 08-Aug-16 01:04:43

Difficulty in gymnastics is determined by a published code of points and likewise technical deductions are standard.

ReallyTired Mon 08-Aug-16 01:05:20

"conversely gymnastics requires an astonishing degree of athleticism and cardio-vascular fitness, but the outcome of the contest is determined by a set of subjective criteria. The event is decided by an outside observer and a decision that x routine has a 7.3 degree of difficulty and another has 6.2. There's also the capacity for the judges to interpret how well the routine has been executed and scoring for artistry. If so, could Strictly or even the X Factor be considered sports events? "

Gymnastics has clear rules on how a particular move is marked and calculating tariffs of particular routines. It's not as subjective as you think.
Gymnastics was in the Ancient Greek olympics.

There is some subjectivity in lots of sports. Ie. Has a swimmer swum their stroke to ASA standards or should they be disqualified?

LikeDylanInTheMovies Mon 08-Aug-16 01:05:42

Altik I still think that definition is too broad. Using the OED's criteria Masterchef would qualify as a sport.

It is physically demanding, it is skillful, they are competing against others for the entertainment of the public. Why isn't is a sport? I'd say because the outcome is determined by the subjective decisions of the judges.

VladmirsPoutine Mon 08-Aug-16 01:10:30

As a general rule of thumb, if it's something you can do whilst having a pint it probably isn't a sport.

LikeDylanInTheMovies Mon 08-Aug-16 01:16:03

Gymnastics has clear rules on how a particular move is marked and calculating tariffs of particular routines. It's not as subjective as you think.

Nor is it wholly objective, especially when it comes to marking the execution of a routine when artistry and composition are part of the judging criteria.

LikeDylanInTheMovies Mon 08-Aug-16 01:20:47

Vlad that knocks out any team George Best played for!

ReallyTired Mon 08-Aug-16 01:25:22

Subjectivity exists in football, rugby, tennis etc. otherwise you would not need a referee to decide if a foul has taken place.

I agree that if you can play a "sport" while drinking a pint then it's not a sport.

altik Mon 08-Aug-16 01:30:34

"Nor is it wholly objective,"

But no sport is wholly objective: whether it is as a previous poster said, the swimming ref deciding whether the strike is correct, or the football ref deciding whether the ball is offside or not, or the umpire deciding whether a move is counted as valid or not.
Judgements are always there, they are always subjective and no sport is really wholly objective. I view it as more of a continuum rather than a dichotomy.

And yes, like a previous poster..I too find it odd that you define sport to exclude one of the few original Olympic sports - gymnastics (although of course, it was very different back then!)

Finally, having attended an international gymnastics competition with a Brevet Judge - it really is not as subjective as you would think. She was able to sit through he comp and state with remarkable accuracy "0.5 deduction for X" etc... There are very clear rules as to what is / is not judged etc, and I would say that is what differentiates gymnastics say from something like dance, which is much more subjective and down to personal taste. Gymnastics judging is much more applying a code, rather than giving a subjective opinion.

molyholy Mon 08-Aug-16 01:34:36

People only do archery when they go butlins. Yanbu

GlindatheFairy Mon 08-Aug-16 01:36:18

I was hearing today that "most women don't participate in a sport". That's the only reason I opened the thread as I wondered whether some activities that lots of women do are not being categorised as sport. Surely the main thing is keeping fit and healthy doing something you enjoy. I'd rather poke myself in the eye than play most team sports, though I like watching them. I was much happier once I found activities where you don't get shouted at for being away with the fairies and letting the team down.

LikeDylanInTheMovies Mon 08-Aug-16 01:36:38

ReallyI think it is different as in the cases you give, they are enforcing the rules of the contest, not deciding the outcome.

Of course referees and umpires can make mistakes, but there is an objective decision to be made - was the ball over the line or not? If the referee said it was and it wasn't (s)he isn't using subjective judgement, (s)he has just failed to implement the rules of the game properly.

LikeDylanInTheMovies Mon 08-Aug-16 01:40:58

And yes, like a previous poster..I too find it odd that you define sport to exclude one of the few original Olympic sports - gymnastics

I know they didn't feature in the ancient Olympics, but all kind of weird and wonderful events have featured in past Olympics. Poetry, art, architecture and music featured as late as 1948.

altik Mon 08-Aug-16 01:45:07

Yes, but that was under the modern era when they tried to combine arts and sports in the Olympics. A different agenda to the original Olympics.

Art competitions were never considered a sport. And were never included in the original Olympics.

So not I'm not quite sure what point you are trying to make?

LikeDylanInTheMovies Mon 08-Aug-16 02:01:15

Fair point altik but then I still don't think your comparison is fair, given that artistic gymnastics as we know it today wasn't introduced until the 1896 Olympics. The ancient definition of gymnastics encompassed a wide range of physical activities and training.

I am still struggling to think of another definition of a sport that isn't so broad that is encompasses a vast range of competitive activity.

altik Mon 08-Aug-16 02:20:12

Okay here are a few other definitions:

The European Sports Charter defines sport as:

"
.“1. “Sport” means all forms of physical activity which, through casual or organised participation, aim at expressing or improving physical fitness and mental well-being, forming social relationships or obtaining results in competition at all levels.” 

The United Nations defines sport as:

.“All forms of physical activity that contribute to physical fitness, mental wellbeing and social interaction, such as play, recreation, organised or competitive sport, and indigenous sports and games.” 

An expert definition of sport is:

" Sports Law by Beloff, Kerr, Demetriou and Beloff at paragraph 5.10 the authors proffer a definition containing the following four elements:“(i) an activity, human or animal,(ii) in which two or more players, human or animal, compete against each other(iii) according to predetermined rules(iv) pursuant to which someone wins, and which determine who wins.”

This last one seems to be referred to a lot!

Not one of the standard definitions of sport states that to be classified as a sport, the outcome has got to be determined by the players, rather than a judge. Trust me, I've been looking at various definitions all evening, and all definitions of sport seem to agree with the above. But more importantly, I can't find a single definition of sport which states that the outcome cannot be determined by judges... unless you can??

altik Mon 08-Aug-16 02:40:57

I take on board your point though that these seem to wide. Lots of definitions do seem to narrow it by saying that the primary purpose of the activity is the physical skill being demonstrated / competed. So I guess that is what would differentiate wrestling from say cake making. With wrestling, diving, gymnastics etc the primary goal or aim is the physical activity itself... To perform the most complex routine, to shoot the furthest, lift the heaviest etc... Whereas in cake making say, your primary aim is not your physical assertion but the end goal - the cake.

altik Mon 08-Aug-16 02:41:24

Too wide even! shock

HerdsOfWilderbeest Mon 08-Aug-16 02:44:03

Mmmmmm. Gymnastics. It's not an activity. But it's not really a sport...?

LikeDylanInTheMovies Mon 08-Aug-16 02:44:09

Altik the issue I take with those definitions is that sport includes all of those things, but they aren't exclusive to sport. The definitions are so elastic that would include a vast range of human endeavours.

Under Beloff et al's criteria a jam making competition would be classified as a sport as it specifies a contest between humans or animals, but doesn't require any athletic element.

Likewise, the European Sports Charter definition if applied literally could see sex counted as a sport - it can be casual or organised, improves physical and mental well-being and helps form social-relationships - as it doesn't define sport as being competitive or having a scoring system.

I agree that my definition is restrictive and problematic in some respects, but I don't think the examples you've given are any more satisfactory.

Mind you if jam making and sex were redefined as sports, the characters in the Archers would be serial world champions.

HerdsOfWilderbeest Mon 08-Aug-16 02:51:27

If you did it fast enough, knitting could be a competitive sport...

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