Sports are an ancient form of play and physical activity. There is no clear historical record of when sports began, but there is evidence that children always included them in play. Later, sports evolved into autotelic physical competitions for adults. The oldest known evidence of sports dates back to prehistoric art, when hunters pursued their prey with a joyous abandon. As a result, the pursuit of prey became a form of art for ancient civilizations.
Modern sports are increasingly commercialized. The mainstream media devotes considerable space to sports, profiling athletes and examining important sports issues. Some of these profiles are collected in the Best American Sports Writing series. There is also a large body of academic literature on the topic, including biographies of prominent athletes, reflections on the nature of sports fandom, and various coaching manuals. Many people are concerned about the impact of commercialization on sport.
Sports have also had an impact on the world’s politics. As the Soviet Union suppressed reformist efforts in Hungary and Czechoslovakia, these nations turned to sports as a means of proving their national identity. Both nations participated in the Olympic games in 1956 and 1968, where the Soviets eventually lost both matches.
Throughout history, the relationship between mass media and sports has changed dramatically. While traditional sports journalism was mostly limited to announcing and recording of events, the rise of mass media has expanded its role to become a full-fledged industry. In addition to a growing base of paying spectators, the commercial media increasingly saw sports coverage as a relatively cheap means of capturing audiences for advertisers.