In the twentieth century, professional sport progressively became a societal phenomenon, characterizing the best of contemporary lifestyles or even the true values of modernity – to such a point that some authors are only too ready to talk of professional sport in the twentieth century as being not only a new ideology, but also an illusion of civilization. For Robert Redeker, therefore: The 20th century has been the century of sport. This century was sporting in the same way that the Middle Ages were religious; but while religion produced major works (in architecture, arts, poetry, theology and philosophy) which defined a civilization, sport produced nothing of the sort. (Redeker, 2002, p. 61) Above all, professional sport can be defined as a spectacle (Yonnet, 1998). The extent of such a spectacle in social life, via the major media (the written press, radio, TV and Internet) is an expression of the increasingly tight links between the sphere of sport and those of politics and economics. This penetration of sport, by forms of logic that are alien to it, deserves a historical analysis that focuses on two questions: ● ● What are the origins of professional sport and can it be considered a universal phenomenon? To that end has professional sport, which has increasingly become an issue in society, been instrumentalized? 1 THE ORIGINS OF PROFESSIONAL SPORT Professional sport is seemingly as old as the world itself. Nevertheless, can it be said, for example, that the Olympic Games played the same role in Ancient Greece as...
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