Ollamaliztli is thought to be the first sport. It was played as early as 1650 BC by the pre-Columbian people in a region we now know as Central America. Little precise information is known about its rules or equipment, but we can speculate from the remains. It was actually a family of games which differed in different regions.
The closest modern sport that is similar to ollamaliztli is racquetball. The ball would be moved by hips rather than using a racquet. Another version was close to field hockey. In other versions, a ring, much like in basketball was placed on a wall with the goal of placing a ball through the ring.
Balls used in the games were mixtures of latex and sap. The balls were from 10-12 inches and weighed 3-6lbs. Games were played on a masonry surface. The game surfaces looked like a big I. They consisted of a long narrow alley with walls on each side. The top and bottom of them were what we would consider the goals in our current sports.
Ollamaliztli was often used as a proxy for wars. The winner of the game would become the societal rulers. Over time the game began to take on a role that we associate with mediation today.
In later times, the games took on a more sinister role. Losers were decapitated. It is possible that the loser’s heads were subsequently used as game balls.
While there is no direct linkage between ollamaliztli and sports today. You can see some connections to racquet sports and goal-scoring sports. Although we don’t settle national conflicts with sporting events, competitions between teams from rival countries often seem to have a war-like flavor. We don’t decapitate losing players but some of our more brutal sports have a defacto decapitation impact on heads through the CTE brain disease.
Beginnings often are rooted in cultural identities. If asked when sport began, few people would think of it as part of a culture that existed more than 8,000 years ago.
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“Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being while movement and methodical physical exercise save it and preserve it.” – Plato (ancient philosopher)