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How many sports are there in the world?

After years of research, we have to admit that we still do not know, that is, we do not know exactly. So far we have accumulated information regarding as many as 8,000 indigeneous sports and sporting games, of which more than 3,000 have been included in the present publication. These come from various regions and cultures, sometimes very distant from one another, such as Great Britain, Nigeria, Mongolia, Korea, Japan, China, Arab countries, the Maori cultures, India, the Innuits, and numerous others. This is an on-going project and new entries are being added to our swelling database almost daily as a result of correspondence with ethnographic institutes, museums of sport, and individual scholars around the world.

Precisely defining what is and what is not a sport is no easy task. In this book we consider sport as a form of human activity (sometimes combined with the effort of animals or using vehicles or various devices), the outcome of which is determined by the physical, more than intellectual, effort. This distinction rules out competitiveness as the sole or even principal element defining sport and thus such activities as board games (e.g. chess) or card games (e.g. bridge or poker) are not included here, even though they have enjoyed the status of sport for a long time. After all, we have chess Olympiads and bridge world championships, the participants of which compete against one another in order to determine the winner. Although their physical, and especially psychophysical abilities allow them to keep in shape during play, they are not a direct competitive factor and do not immediately determine a win or loss. An immense number of such games, as well as their 'intellectual' (as opposed to 'physical') nature calls for further research and a separate publication. This also holds for games of chance.

This encyclopedia is quite a departure from all international encyclopedias thus far published, which focused mainly on well known, major or international sports, barely noticing or completely neglecting the incredible cultural richness and great multitude of indigenous, traditional, historical, regional, and folk sports and games of various nations and ethnic minorities, many of which are fascinating not only for their differences, but as often as not, their similarities, showing features common to all peoples the world over.

There are a number of handy specialized guides and dictionaries, which present the tradition of individual countries, regions or ethnic groups. None of them, however, are intercultural. Spanish, Danish, Estonian, Basque, or Arab publications present the richness of their own sports tradition and leave it at that. British sport dictionaries and encyclopedias offer information on numerous English, Scottish, or Welsh sports and pastimes, but leave out Celtic and Breton sports, which must be searched for elsewhere. There is no single publication discussing the many fascinating sports of the Slavic, Arab, African, and South American nations. No publication so far has brought together such sports as Indian chungkee, Japanese hagoita, Polish czoromaj, African zuar, Basque aizkolaris, Afgan buzkashi, Mayan pokyah, Danish langbold fra anholt, Maori poi waka, Chinese cricket fights, Mexican pelota purhepecha encendida, Greek Orthodox cross diving, English Eton wall game, Flemish krulbol, Turkish yagli güreş, Germanic agnon toss, Taiwanese woodball, Hindu kabaddi, Scottish tossing the caber, Portuguese jogo do pau, French decapitation de l'oie, Italian gioco del ponte, Irish iomáint, Pakistani gulli dunda, Korean ssirům, Swedish pärk, Breton gouren and Spanish castells, just to name a few. And what about the extinct sports of ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, China or the pre-Columbian cultures of the Americas? Medieval and chivalric sports such as quintain, running at the ring and its Croatian equivalent alka? The multitude of animal sports like bear baiting, and the less cruel though equally dramatic quagga, goat and pigeon races? Most of us associate high jump with a horizontal bar, though in many cultures participants improvise a bar, while in the Scottish hitch and kick the object is to touch a suspended tambourine or bell with one's foot.

This encyclopedia is bursting with breath-taking stories which present the limitless richness of human cultures and sporting activities from pre-historic to modern times, including such relatively recent sporting extravaganzas as B.A.S.E jumping, underwater football, sandboarding, kite skiing, zorbing and horseball, among many others.

Including every last sport in the world has proved impossible, but those herein discussed disclose endless human ingenuity. Though there do exist certain sports that can be practiced solo, the vast majority of athletic games require shared participation. Humankind is indeed a social animal and sports are intrinsically human. We hold out the hope that with this book readers will begin to appreciate the vast number of sporting pastimes that are common for people around the world.

   
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