Basketball is a fast-moving game for two teams.Basketball is a fast-moving game for two teams. A sport is a physical activity in which an individual or team takes part for fun or as part of a competition. In some sports, the person who runs fastest or throws furthest is the winner. In others, such as tennis or football, players win by scoring more points or goals. In sports such as diving, gymnastics or ice skating, judges decide who are the best performers. Professional sportspeople compete for their livelihoods on a regular basis. Other people play sports for fun or exercise.

A sumo wrestling bout in JapanA sumo wrestling bout in Japan

Origins of sport

Many of the sports we know today have their origins in ancient history. Some began as religious rituals. Other were tests of strength or endurance. Many of the earliest sports, the "martial arts" such as wrestling, archery and fencing, were based on fighting. Young men had to be trained for battle by practising combat with their hands or with weapons. 


Sport in ancient Egypt

Fencing, wrestling and archery in ancient EgyptFencing, wrestling and archery in ancient EgyptIn ancient Egypt, the first sword-fighting matches were held about 3200 years ago. The swords had blunted points and the fencers wore narrow shields on their free arms, which they used to fend off a thrust from their opponent’s sword. Wrestling may have been the first organized sport of all. It grew up in many different cultures all over the world, but in ancient Egypt, the fight was over when one man had both shoulders pressed to the ground—just as in modern forms of wrestling. Archery was also a popular sport, closely linked to hunting. A scene carved in stone in an Egyptian temple about 3500 years ago shows King Amenhotep II firing an arrow while riding in a chariot.

The Bird's Nest stadium, 2008 Beijing OlympicsThe Bird's Nest stadium, 2008 Beijing Olympics

Olympic Games

The most famous sporting competition in the world is the Olympic Games, which is held every four years. It is named after Olympia in Greece, where the games were first held in ancient times. The first record of the games is in 776 BC. They began as a way of honouring the gods and gradually became an organized competition with running, throwing, jumping, wrestling, riding and chariot-racing events.

In the modern Olympics, begun in 1896, men and women from all over the world try to win bronze, silver and gold medals in their sport. The Games are held in a different city around the world each time. A special stadium is often built for the event.



An athletics stadium allows several different sports to go on at the same time. Shaped like a squashed “O” with straight sides, the running track borders the central field. It is divided by white lines into strips, or “lanes”, along which the athletes run. Races are known as track events. They may be short sprints or longer races of several laps. Some races involve jumping over hurdles. In relays, members of a team each run a section of the race before passing a baton to a team-mate. Inside the track there are areas for “field” events such as throwing the javelin, discus or shot, pole vaulting, and the long and high jumps.Track and field athletics events Track and field athletics events

 Sean Callery

One of the oldest team games may have been polo, a game similar to hockey but played on horseback. It was played in Persia (modern-day Iran) at least 2500 years ago, and is still played today.

In the 19th century, early basketball players used fruit-picking baskets. After each score, someone had to climb a ladder to get the ball out of the basket.

Pelota is a ball game that originated in the Basque region of Spain, and which is now popular in Latin American countries. In a variety known as Jai alai, players can hurl the ball at speeds of more than 300 km/h (188 mph).

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