How many sports exist?

How many sports exist?
Jul, 23 2023

The Complexity of Counting Sports

When we think about the question 'how many sports exist', it's not as straightforward as it might seem at first. Are we talking about international sports that are recognized worldwide? Are we including traditional sports that are only played in specific areas or countries? What about extreme sports, eSports, or hybrid sports? The number can range from a couple of hundreds to several thousands depending on the criteria we use for what qualifies as a 'sport'. In this article, we'll delve into this fascinating topic and try to provide a comprehensive answer.

Recognized Olympic Sports

The Olympic Games are perhaps the most famous sporting event worldwide, featuring a wide range of sports. The International Olympic Committee currently recognizes 33 sports, which include popular ones like athletics, basketball, boxing, football, and swimming. Each of these sports has several disciplines or events, adding up to a total of 339 events for the upcoming 2021 Tokyo Olympics. However, this number is subject to change as the committee regularly reviews and changes the sports included in the Olympics.

International Sports Federations

Beyond the Olympics, there are numerous International Sports Federations that govern different sports worldwide. According to the SportAccord, an organization that unites international sports federations, there are currently 93 international sports federations. Each of these federations governs a sport, but some oversee multiple sports. For example, the International Gymnastics Federation governs seven different sports.

Traditional and Indigenous Sports

If we expand our view to include traditional and indigenous sports, the number grows exponentially. Almost every culture has developed its unique sports or games, many of which are still played today. For instance, in Scotland, they have the Highland games, while in India, they play a sport called kabaddi. Inuit people have a range of traditional games like the knuckle hop and the two-foot high kick. Counting all these sports is nearly impossible as many are not officially recognized or regulated.

Extreme and Adventure Sports

Extreme and adventure sports have seen a surge in popularity in recent years. These sports often involve a high level of physical exertion and a degree of risk. Think about sports like base jumping, wingsuit flying, big wave surfing, and mountaineering. Again, the number of these sports is hard to quantify as new ones are continually being invented and adapted.

eSports: The New Player in the Field

eSports, or competitive video gaming, is a relatively new addition to the world of sports. Despite its recent inception, eSports has gained massive popularity, with millions of players and spectators worldwide. There are numerous video games that are played competitively, each with its leagues and tournaments. This adds yet another layer of complexity to our quest to count the number of sports.

Hybrid Sports: Mixing It Up

Hybrid sports, which combine elements from two or more sports, add to the count. These include sports like underwater hockey, chess boxing, and footgolf, each combining elements from different sports to create something new and unique. As sports continue to evolve and innovate, we can expect the number of hybrid sports to increase.

Sports Variations: The Same But Different

Even within a single sport, there can be numerous variations. For example, football can mean association football (soccer), American football, rugby football, Australian rules football, and so on. Each of these is unique and distinct, yet they all fall under the umbrella of 'football'. This is yet another factor that complicates our count of the number of sports.

Counting Sports: An Impossible Task?

So, how many sports are there? As we've seen, it's a complex question with no definitive answer. Depending on how we define a 'sport', the number can range from a couple of hundreds to several thousands. Despite this, the diversity and range of sports worldwide is a testament to human creativity and our love for competition and physical activity.

The Universal Language of Sports

Regardless of the exact number, sports play a crucial role in societies worldwide. They bring people together, foster a sense of community, and promote physical fitness and well-being. Whether it's a group of children playing a pick-up game of football in a park, a high-stakes match in a packed stadium, or a traditional indigenous game passed down through generations, sports speak a universal language that transcends cultural and geographical boundaries.


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