Sports are autotelic (played for their own sake) physical contests, with goals and challenges. The definition of sport, however, is not straightforward and poses many difficult questions.
Does mountain climbing count as a sport? Is E-Sports a sport or is it just an activity that requires skill and dexterity in operating a machine?
A clear definition of sports is critical for understanding the complex social, political, and economic processes that shape the development of global sporting culture. A useful definition must clarify the relationship of sport to play and games and also to contests and competitions that involve the arousal of emotions and provide opportunities for interpersonal contact.
In addition, sports have been used to express and reinforce national identity politics. Nationalism can be displayed in people competing in national teams, in the reporting of sport, or in the formation of traditions that reflect specific views about national values and identities.
Nationalism can also undermine the fundamental ethos of sport being played for its own sake and for the enjoyment of participants. The spectre of nationalist violence often haunts sport, particularly when nations are involved in football wars or in armed conflicts between teams of professional athletes.
Throughout the 20th century, sports have been a major source of intracontinental migration. Players, coaches, and other actors in the mass media have been able to move across borders to secure lucrative contracts with elite clubs and teams.
The process of sports globalization has been a complex process, reflecting the dynamics of global flows of people, technology, finance, images, and ideas. It has also been subject to the whims of international elites. Despite the growing presence of noncore nations and Asian cultures, the hegemonic power of Western elites remains dominant in most sports arenas.