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Sports and Society

It is very true that the revolution of sporting activities occurred in Britain within the second half of 19th century. The increasing participation and involvement in sporting was indubitably due to urbanization, industrialisation improved communications, improved transport infrastructure, increased incomes, new organisational skills, and other positive effects of the industrial revolution. It is recognised that sport was part and parcel of the British life even before the industrial revolution. It is only that earlier sporting activities were improved after the industrial revolution that took place during the 19th century. The major changes that occurred to the earlier sport constitute creation of association and clubs for the playing golf, cricket and organisation of pedestrianism like running and horseracing during the first half of the 18th century. During the 18th century, a range of sporting activities and organisations existed, and there was codification, commercialisation and institutionalisation of sports. Important facets of the development the sports took place within the rural setting and not in the industrial towns.

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The development of sport associativity during the 19th century can be explained in sociological and economic terms. Sport was seen as an economic unit since the club represents a way of delivering a specific type of good that was referred to as club good. Normally, most goods produced are referred to as private goods which means that the consumption by an household or individual denies the change of the good being utilised by any other household or individual and the producer has a capability of denying possible ways of obtaining the good. The club theory offers a basic rationale for the development of today's sports. Commercialisation in sport is another economic perspective. It is true that financial rewards of sport are very high.

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In the 19th century, Britain was at the very heart of enduring social and economic change. The major force behind the change was the industrial revolution which started in the 1700s and in the year 1860 it reached its peak. The social and economic change altered the concept of labour profoundly, metamorphosed the structure of the social class, and raised the general living standards due to speedy industrial development and the resultant rise in total income. During the early 19th century each and every employee was allowed Sunday off, and it was until 1870s when some of the skilled employees started to have Saturday afternoon off. As from 1890s most of the employees were allowed half day holiday on every Saturday and at this particular time was born a weekend. This was the time when sports became organised since most of the people including the working class individuals could have leisure time. During this time, athletics as one of the social activities was a very popular sport and it was known as pedestrianism (Wolfram 1998, pg.35).

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This is the time when people used sporting activities for social and economic purposes. Those who participated in the sporting activities like athletics earned a prize after winning.

The pedestrians competed for prize money that was provided by an establishment or a promoter, who was responsible in staging the invitation races. The public charged admission and a criterion were used to discourage non-competitors in which all the racers paid entry fees. Frequently, the promoters tried to heighten the competition and sweetened it by providing bonuses to winners who would cover some given distance in a specified period of time. The sport of athletics has been fundamental to the modern Olympics Games as from the time of inception in 1896. Most pedestrians participated in long walks as others enjoyed the short-course competition as well as sprinting. The sprinting and short-course competitions were normally done between two or more competitors and were linked to gambling. In the 19th century track and field originated from pedestrianism. The track and field took two different forms, one amateur and the other professional.

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The professional track and field competitors were not regulated which resulted into most of the athletes earning a living on skill and cunning. Most accounts of sprinters travelled from town to another in disguise, feigning to have little knowledge or skill regarding racing such that they could convince the local competitors to hold a competition together, and also the convinced many spectators to place wages against them. By using this criterion, a good sprinter used to earn a lot of money hence led a decent living. The European sports were to be preserved from the potential commercial distortions. Sport was seen as part and parcel of European society since it was an excellent alternative to bring about social cohesion. The sporting activities went beyond economic framework. Democracy and solidarity were the two principles that defined the European sport.

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Britain as a European nation, accepted a particular responsibility for her cultural heritage such as the athletics games which started long time ago. The sport's social significance was emphasised and particularly it was seen that sporting activities were used to bring people together as well as to forge people's identities. Since the sporting activities were seen useful, special consideration was given to the amateur sport's particular characteristics. It is very certain that the world of sporting needs to attain a clearer legal framework in order to develop its sporting and economic activities. The competition rules were added in value so as to avoid things like biases. Rationalisation of sporting activities that went even beyond regulation was later applied. Rationalisation was the affair of the society and a matter of education and culture of a civil society.

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It was until the end of the 19th century when sophisticated and more organised forms of sporting activities came forth. The industrial revolution during this time had a significant influence on every aspect of recreation and sport. Communication, technology, transportation as well as people's changing lifestyle played a significant role in the development of sporting activities. Sport became a social activity for those individuals who could afford. Advanced technology became very important in the development of new sports equipment, such as tennis, cricket and golf. Improved communications enhanced sports news to reach people worldwide, and developments in transport infrastructure enabled international competition.

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