Only a Game? - Don’t be a stick in the mud, be a sport about it

Chess is a sport of the mind.
Chess is a sport of the mind.

The true definition of the word ‘sport’ is something that has interested me for quite a while.

Is chess a sport? What about sepak takraw and orienteering? Yes? No? Never heard of sepak takraw? Well, to be honest with you, neither had I until I started researching this column but it sounds cool doesn’t it?

Sport. It’s a noun and it’s a verb but it’s also a word that has never known and perhaps never will know, any conclusive definition.

The best definition, in my opinion, and the one which enjoys the greatest amount of cohesion is the one from SportAccord.

SportAccord is the umbrella organisation for all Olympic and non-Olympic international sports federations as well as organisers of multi-sports games and sport-related international associations.

The vast majority of world sports organisations, including FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association), ITA (International Tennis Federation) and IGF (International Golf Federation), are amongst its federation members.

From L-R: Switzerland's Simona Meiler, Faye Gulini of the U.S., France's Nelly Moenne Loccoz, France's Chloe Trespeuch, Eva Samkova of the Czech Republic compete during the women's snowboard cross semi-finals at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games in Rosa Khutor February 16, 2014. REUTERS/Mike Blake (RUSSIA  - Tags: OLYMPICS SPORT SNOWBOARDING TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)   ORG XMIT: OLYD063

From L-R: Switzerland's Simona Meiler, Faye Gulini of the U.S., France's Nelly Moenne Loccoz, France's Chloe Trespeuch, Eva Samkova of the Czech Republic compete during the women's snowboard cross semi-finals at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games in Rosa Khutor February 16, 2014. REUTERS/Mike Blake (RUSSIA - Tags: OLYMPICS SPORT SNOWBOARDING TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) ORG XMIT: OLYD063

SportAccord define a sport in five very simple stages. One - it contains an element of competition. Two - it’s in no way harmful to a living creature. Three - it does not rely on equipment provided by a single supplier. Four - it does not rely on a luck element specifically designed into the sport. Five - the sport should not pose a threat to the health and safety of any of its participants or spectators.

This definition will most certainly annoy and frustrate many but to confine sport within the limitations of physicality is awfully narrow minded and elitist.

Some football fans take pride that their sport knows no social or economic boundaries. Some of the world’s greatest players have come from very working class families, Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi and George Best.

Players like Best, Maradonna and Messi all enjoyed success because of their ability. Their prowess was celebrated on a global scale so why shouldn’t the same logic and set of rules be applied to the world’s greatest chess players, lifesavers (yes, lifesaving is actually a sport), water-skiers and surfers?

SportAccord uses five categories from which it grants membership. These categories are physical (e.g. soccer and rugby), the mind (e.g. chess and draughts), motorised (e.g. Formula One and Moto GP), co-ordination (e.g. billiards and orienteering) and animal supported (e.g. dog sledding and equestrianism).

In my younger and more arrogant years I would have laughed at the thought that snowboard cross or bodybuilding could be considered as sports but the older you get the wiser you get, or so they tell me.

Just because a sport like chess, boules and canoeing might not be as popular or as enjoyable to watch as soccer or athletics doesn’t mean they should not be regarded as sports.

If snowboarding, orienteering, darts, power-lifting and table tennis were as easy as many make out then surely we would all be top class participants.

The fact of the matter is. All of the activities listed by SportAccord require skill, competition and don’t rely on luck. That’s what makes something a sport.

Now. Anyone for a spot of a Sepak Takraw?