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 Organised sport - its origins

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Caro
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PostSubject: Organised sport - its origins   Thu 26 Jul 2012, 23:27

Organised sport and sporting spectacles attracting large audiences seem to have been normal in Rome and Greece centuries ago. I don’t know about earlier eastern countries, but you don’t associate sporting prowess (do you have prowess other places – do you academic prowess for instance?) with Asian countries.

And now sport is everywhere with huge audiences both at the venue and watching on television. (How many people will watch the opening ceremony of the Olympics tomorrow – billions, perhaps. Certainly many millions.) It seems to me that this is a phenomenon of the last 200 years and not in earlier times in European countries. I am wondering what brought this change. Most of the present-day major sports have associations and rules dating back to the 19th century only. People played sport in the past, but it seemed to be more localised, more informal as regards rules, and more participatory rather than for spectator purposes.

Television has obviously had an effect on audiences, but I think a growing spectacle has been the case for considerably longer than TV has been around – the modern Olympics began in 1896. And the first football association dates to 1863 and the MCC seems to date back to the 18th century. Even in NZ the New Zealand Rugby Union was formed in 1892, the Football Association in 1891 and England toured NZ at cricket in 1863.

I think of duelling or jousting tournaments happening in earlier times, but for aristocratic or royal occasions, not just to entertain the ordinary citizen. And ball games with specific rules don’t seem to have been part of the culture of the Middle Ages or Renaissance times. So what changed in the 18th and 19th centuries? Easier train travel to bring people together? But I was watching something about Scarborough and its fairs brought people en masse to it in earlier times. (Though it did seem to go for several weeks or months so perhaps people were spread out in their attendance.) Better written communications to advertise events? Or could it be connected to the growth of parliamentary democracy?

Or do you think/know there was always organised sport in European society?

 
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PostSubject: Re: Organised sport - its origins   Fri 27 Jul 2012, 05:31

What changed? People have much more leasure time these days, far more than at any other time in the past. That combined with ease of travel and 24hr television and mass media coverage, if it wasn't for those three things sport would still be a fairly localised and occasional event.
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PostSubject: Re: Organised sport - its origins   Fri 27 Jul 2012, 16:06

Hurling competitions between rival communities are a very ancient phenomenon in Irish culture, some claims dating the sport back to 1200BCE. It appears never to have been played for anything other than spectacle's sake and local bragging rights, and though compared to the modern version it was a most unruly affair there still seem to have been set codes and parameters within which it retained its unique identity and by which victory was established. So popular was it that it held cross-cultural appeal even at the height of Anglo-Irish hatreds and tensions during England's earliest colonisation of the country. So much so in fact that the Wicklow-based Gaelic O'Tooles could utilise its popularity to inflict a massacre on the English community in Dublin when several thousand people had assembled in Cullenswood, near Dublin, to watch a hurling match in 1205.

I would imagine that sport as spectacle, and organised as such, is very ancient generally - at least as ancient as where it also became utilised as an adjunct to military or religious rite. The Romans definitely cottoned on early to the notion of the specialist "professional" sportsman whose role was restricted to that endeavour alone, as they did to the notion that the entire production be arranged primarily for the purpose of entertainment and gambling - whatever they might have said about their galdiatorial combat being a noble descendant of Etruscan funeral games, or their chariot racing a test of necessary military skills (Romans had always done quite well militarily without them).

Sport as organised spectacle in fact seems to have a direct correlation with settled and stable societies regardless of how developed, wealthy or efficiently administered each society might have been. Areas which experienced regular migrations with consequent social and cultural turbulence seem to have taken longer to embrace or to develop the pursuit.
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PostSubject: Re: Organised sport - its origins   Sat 28 Jul 2012, 10:26

Hmmm. Bread and Circuses. Is there a case for suggesting that organised sports are a way of keeping the population's mind away from politics? I can't remember who said it, that sport had replaced religion as the opiate of the people.
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PostSubject: Re: Organised sport - its origins   Mon 30 Jul 2012, 05:12

Thanks for those comments. I suppose there must have always been sport as spectacle and yet it seems to me to have faded sometime and then returned strongly to British culture, at least. I was reading about Much Wenlock today (which we visited in 2011 not having known any of its connections to the Olympics till then) and when they organised their first sporting tournament, according to wikipedia quoting the archived minutes: "There was heavy criticism of Brookes's insistence that the Games was open to the working classes and thus have a large number of scantily-dressed young men performing in front of women. It was felt that such an event would cause drunkenness, rioting, lewd behavioiur, and that men would leave their wives. The games were a huge success and none of the threatened disturbances occurred."

I am a little mystified about why men would leave their wives, though - all the scantily-dressed men should have brought about excitement in the women in the town and made them leave their husbands, surely?

And early 20th C sport was very uncertain about women's participation, feeling anything more than 100 yard races would be damaging to them. Only this year do we have boxing for women (though I could do without boxing for anyone anywhere). People seemed to have to be persuaded about the value of sport for the human body.

You read of young men in the 18th C racing their curricles or their horses etc, with people watching, but not of them racing themselves much, I think.
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PostSubject: Re: Organised sport - its origins   Mon 30 Jul 2012, 08:21

I wonder just where this "heavy criticism of Brookes's insistence that the Games event was open to the working classes" emanated from? Brookes included no major discipline which wasn't already well established, though his inclusion of athletics with set distances, variations and rules lifted straight from public schools' curricula probably lay at the root of such silly scaremongering. Wenlock, indeed Shropshire, lay in the heart of what was at the time a centre of Methodist growth and Brookes's "Olympian" ideals would have dovetailed quite neatly with the Methodist notions of egalitarianism in the matter of personal worth and the application of reason. All he was really doing was recognising an ancient principle in a modern application that had already been long established in his society, and making a logical, if far-sighted, conclusion regarding how sport should be organised and approached ideologically on that basis.

For men, of course.
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PostSubject: Re: Organised sport - its origins   Tue 31 Jul 2012, 17:07

Can we count Roman arena spectacles as sport? And what of the Inca - or was it Aztec - ball game? Losers losing all in both areans for the most part. .And what of the spoils of the hunt? I wonder when rules were laid down for that? I suspect that some spects of winter sports have a very early beginning.
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PostSubject: Re: Organised sport - its origins   Wed 01 Aug 2012, 06:21

Yes, we can count them as sport. We can because the Romans did, and that's all it takes to meet the terms of definition.

Ullamaliztli seems to have owed its contemporary and continuing popularity to the gambling it facilitated. Did the losing side die? Or is that just what Hollywood decreed?
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PostSubject: Re: Organised sport - its origins   Wed 01 Aug 2012, 10:28

Organised sport and gambling probably originated concurrently, perhaps. That makes sense. Where there is a human competition there is opinionated guesswork.
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PostSubject: Re: Organised sport - its origins   Fri 03 Aug 2012, 09:44

Re Nordman's "For men of course", I read today a quote from Pierre de Coubertin saying the inclusion of women would be "impractical, uninteresting, ungainly and, I do not hesitate to add, improper."

When I am unfortunate enough to glimpse some women's beach volleyball I can't help but think he had a point with his last word. Though you'd hardly call these girls 'ungainly'. And apparently for most people they are not uninteresting. I am lucky my husband is fussy about what he considers a suitable sport for the Olympics so the bvb gets switched away from quickly in our house.
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PostSubject: Re: Organised sport - its origins   Fri 03 Aug 2012, 09:50

Mmmm bvb gets switched over quickly when someone else goes into the room here, I note. According to my husband the crowd is always big there - because it is so easy to get to, he supposes - out loud supposition, that the smile betrays another.
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PostSubject: Re: Organised sport - its origins   Sun 05 Aug 2012, 07:52

If we looked at the 20-odd events in the current Olympics, wouldn't it be fair to say that most of them became 'organised' during the period when the British empire was in its heyday, and there was a need to find thinks to occupy our idle gentlemen?

Yes, basketball was organised in the US, and judo came to us from Japan, but football, hockey, tennis, boxing, etc, were all given rules during the British empire, I believe....
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PostSubject: Re: Organised sport - its origins   Sun 05 Aug 2012, 11:05

One should never discount the pivotal role played by Edwin Beard Budding in all this. He and John Ferrabee' 1830 patented lawnmower made it possible for the first time to create a pitch, track, or oval on which a standardised and regulated version of various sports could at lat be played. Hitherto sport had been necessarily a very disorganised affair with its practitioners very much limited to local rules based on available topography. The lawnmower brought about the possibility of univeral standards being devised.

It is also worth noting that while it is true that a disproportionate number of codes owe their invention to British enthusiasts during the latter half of the 19th century, their elevation to organised sport on an international level - of which the Olympics Games were very much a part of the trend at the time - is equally disproportionately accreditable to the French. The number of present Olympic disciplines which still have French-devised world governing bodies (soccer included) is proof of this.
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PostSubject: Re: Organised sport - its origins   Sun 05 Aug 2012, 17:44

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PostSubject: Re: Organised sport - its origins   Sun 05 Aug 2012, 17:56

Heavens to Betsy, I drove through Carnwarth today! That's all folks.
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PostSubject: Re: Organised sport - its origins   Sun 05 Aug 2012, 18:16

Not to far away is Lanark, and the Lanark Silver Bell [now held at Hamilton racecourse] horse race is traditionally dated to 1180, though the hallmarking on the Bell itself, shows it was made at the turn of the 16th/17th centuries [which is still quite old]
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PostSubject: Re: Organised sport - its origins   Sun 05 Aug 2012, 18:52

Carlisle racecourse has Silver Bell race as well. The Carlisle Bell also dates from around this time.
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PostSubject: Re: Organised sport - its origins   Mon 27 Aug 2012, 10:40

The Palio horse race in Siena has taken place since at the least the 1650s. It is contested between horses and riders representing the 17 districts of the city.

http://www.ilpalio.org/palioenglish.htm

Winning is everything. There are no prizes for coming second. There are no Silver or Bronze medals as in the Olympics. In fact coming second in the Palio race is considered a cause for greater derision than actually coming last.
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PostSubject: Re: Organised sport - its origins   Sun 02 Sep 2012, 20:57

Staying with Italy, the Calcio Fiorentino disappeared for a couple of hundred years then was revived in the 1930s

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calcio_Fiorentino
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PostSubject: Re: Organised sport - its origins   Sat 22 Sep 2012, 19:34

IIRC the early lawnmowers at Lord's also fertilised the place.
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PostSubject: Re: Organised sport - its origins   Sat 22 Sep 2012, 21:39

They still do at our local golf course (a nine-hole one) - sheep keep the grass down.
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