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NOSTALGIC LOOK AT SPORTING HISTORY


 

Sport is an integral part of our culture.  Sports enthral and entertain us.  Mostly, because athletes continually wow us with their agility, uncanny power and strength. 

After years of practice and hard work they have conditioned their bodies, fine-tuned their skills, and sculpted their minds for their sport and within the person these complex resources merge to produce athletic grace.

Elitism in sport is not a marvel of the last couple of centuries. The story of sport is historically rich.  Modern sports are not so different from sporting activities from hundreds and thousands of years ago, only today sport utilizes different equipment, follows different rules and has vastly more spectacle and glamour.

Champions of Survival Outsmart and Defeat Their Foe

Millenia ago humankind required feats of strength, skill, and endurance to simply survive to adulthood - gathering food and hunting to avoid starvation, outsmarting and defeating fierce predators to avoid death.  Similar muscle power and dexterity was required to survive the battles of war.  The clan relied on the braver and stronger members of the group for food and protection.  The less able members encouraged and applauded their heroes. Storytellers re-enacted feats of strength and endurance, creating legends about the exploits of their heroes.    Early cave paintings depicted the great victories of these champions.

Triumph in Fighting or Dying Well - Ultimate
Victory in Staying Alive to Fight Another Day

In the advancement of human civilization the survivalist skills of both hunters and warriors evolved into intense competitions like the gladiator games, chariot races and jousting tournaments. These were very serious aggressive competitions - man against beast, man against man - that had to have a winner.   For thousands of years the survivors and winners of these major competitions inspired admiration and became celebrities throughout their empire simply by besting the competition.

For the ancient gladiators there was triumph in fighting or dying well, but the ultimate victory in the arena was to stay alive to fight another day.   For the charioteer, the scythed chariot of war evolved from a hostile military cart used in battle to a racing chariot driven in the hippodrome.  The drivers were most often slaves.  They were courageous and enterprising dare-devils who would demonstrate their prowess in a dangerous sporting competition to bring glory to their masters.   The winning charioteer received a wreath of laurel leaves and possibly, if they won often enough, maybe a bit of money and the possibility of buying their freedom.

Jousting became obsolete in warfare in the 14th Century, but the knights in shining armour continued to use their horses, lances and shields in medieval jousting tournaments. The competitors and spectators were treated to lavish banquets and the best knight received a prize.

Sporting competitions  have certainly changed - from the Ancient Olympic Games and their ritual sacrifices to the advertising-driven Superbowl; from ancient footraces to extreme sports of the twenty-first century; from jousting’s  list field to our multi-sport arenas/complexes;  from laurel wreaths to multi-million dollar signing bonuses.  The brave, strong and heroic hunter gatherers and warrior knights evolved into the elite athletes we celebrate today.

Through so many cultures and so much change, however, one common element envelopes primitive, ancient and modern sport - the victorious heroes are honoured, distinguished, and praised, their deeds proclaimed and chronicled for future generations to appreciate their accomplishments.

Athletes, the gladiator/warrior of ancient times and the amateur/professional we admire today, understand their passion and push themselves to attain higher levels of achievement, exemplifying the physical, mental and moral potential of the human being.  Athletic competitions bring people together,  connect our communities and are the social glue that integrates and bonds our cultures, imparting such values as justice, fair play, and teamwork.

Humankind has always loved its games so sports have historically been intertwined into the fabric of our society.  Sporting activities have long been linked to the land, the climate, the seasons, economics, and the traditions or attitudes of the people.  The competitors, the playing fields, the rules of engagement and the spectators have evolved over time. Economic affluence, improved transportation and people having more leisure time has increased participation in sports, influencing the building of better and larger facilities and provided more opportunities.   Technological advancements lead to better or safer equipment.  And of course, over time the rules being challenged and modified.

In our lifetime we have witnessed significant changes in sport and future generations will as well.

 

 






 

 

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Wetaskiwin and County Sports Hall of Fame
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