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In a sci-fi, post-apocalyptic scenario, is it reasonable/believable to assume that despite hardships, Humans would make time to engage in recreational sports activities? And in the case of sports' meetings/gatherings, like the ancient Panhellenic Games or the modern Olympiads, how would warfaring nations agree on where to meet, what rules to follow or whether there's fair competition - do these events not require a state of peacetime and international cooperation?

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  • $\begingroup$ In ancient Greece the Olympic Games were organized every four years no matter what. If any wars were in progress they were suspended for the duration of the Games; this was known as the Olympic Truce. The Games were so regular that ancient historians used them to date historical events. (For fun: January 2021 is about at the middle of the 4th year of the 699th Olympiad.) How did the Greeks do it? What did your research turn out? $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Jan 26, 2021 at 15:30
  • $\begingroup$ Research brought to my attention the Panathenaic Games, where the son of the King of Minos is killed out of jealousy by other competitors. No information uncovered yet as to HOW these contests were held, and there are some accounts of participants' deaths during the games. So not sure if it was a competition as we understand, or more of a no-holds-barred blood sport. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 26, 2021 at 16:11
  • $\begingroup$ I have reason to believe said events would take place in the Thunderdome, and would be governed by Bartertown Rules. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Commented Jan 26, 2021 at 17:01
  • $\begingroup$ (1) The Panathenaic Games were very much a very local event; they included a sport competition, but that was just one component of a complex festivital. (2) You must understand that for the people of whom we think when we say "ancient Greece", king Minos was a mythological figure. Lots of stuff happens in myths and legends. (For example, the wife of the same king Minos mated with a semi-divine bull and gave birth to the Minotaur.) (3) Some of the sporting events practiced in Ancient Greece were bloody full-contact sports, e.g., the pankration, similar to modern MMA. Others were very tame. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Jan 26, 2021 at 22:53

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All depends on the depth of post-apocalypse

If civilization is still running well, we can see lavish, elaborate competitions like The Hunger Games. If the civilization is beaten back almost to the stone age, all we could see is The Blood of Heroes.

In either case, yes, sports is just in the nature of people. Even if they can't travel and can't get much of equipment, people will find ways to compete.

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Alexander said it would depend on the depth of post-apocalypse; in most parts I agree, but the type of apocalypse matters as well: nuclear, zombie, alien invasion (like XCOM, maybe?), or otherworldly influence (a la Lovecraft, or perhaps like Half-life?)?

  1. Nuclear Apocalypse-Humanity would likely survive a nuclear apocalypse just fine according to Anixx's comments, so sports will also survive and be played as normal within a short timeframe.

  2. Zombie Apocalypse-The book series Last Kids on Earth suggests that teenagers would have video-game-style achievements and perhaps throw things at zombies for amusement. Hunting, football, hockey, soccer-if humanity survives, sports will too, and they will likely be turned against the zombies or played inside shelters.

  3. Alien Invasion-Once again, look at hunting. In rebellion hideouts and shelters, even military complexes, other sports would likely have a place as a fitness maintenance program and natural entertainment. Perhaps certain humans will convince the aliens that they need to prove their supremacy in a fair and equal competition (just like in Space Jam) and play sports with them. Granted, said sports will be more than a little intense....

  4. Alien Takeover-Humans in this case would be playing sports for alien entertainment, and perhaps even be "voluntold" for gladiatorial combat.

  5. Otherworldly influence-No matter how strange the world becomes, people will still play sports (as long as they are still surviving, not necessarily thriving). Then it's just a matter of time until humanity adapts the current roles to fit their altered reality.

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  • $\begingroup$ The need for shelters in the case of a nuclear apocalypse is exaggerated. $\endgroup$
    – Anixx
    Commented Jan 26, 2021 at 21:10
  • $\begingroup$ Really? I was not aware of that; still, in the case of nuclear war, wouldn't one want to be in a bomb shelter? $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Commented Jan 26, 2021 at 21:11
  • $\begingroup$ One has to be in a bomb shelter for about 30 min after the nuclear explosion. After that you leave the shelter safely. Yes, there could be radioactive contamination of waters and crops, depending on how "dirty" the bombs were (bombs of better quality make less radioactive contamination), but you do not need to go to shelter to avoid radioactive food. Rather, you remove the upper layer of the ground and continue as usual. Look at Chernobyl. And notice that no nuclear war can produce similar contamination (unless a nuclear plant is nuked, but that is a local disaster). $\endgroup$
    – Anixx
    Commented Jan 26, 2021 at 21:15
  • $\begingroup$ In Chernobyl there vaporized tens of tons of nuclear fuel. A nuclear bomb contains several kilograms. So, no nuclear war, however intense it would be can produce similar contamination (again, unless a nuclear plant is bombed), but in any case it would not be much worse than Chernobyl. $\endgroup$
    – Anixx
    Commented Jan 26, 2021 at 21:20
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you; I accounted for your comments in my answer, what do you think? $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Commented Jan 26, 2021 at 21:20
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People will always find ways to keep their spirits up in the worst conditions, and playing games/sports would likely be a part of that. During the informal Christmas Truce of 1914, soldiers even played football with the men on the enemy side. Keeping morale up is essential to getting any kind of group through a crisis successfully. They're also useful for training people for physical fitness and working in a group- if you need to protect your settlement from raiders, playing lacrosse as war training might be a good idea.

On the other hand, international competitions and any other kind of event requiring complex logistics would be one of the first things to go in a societal collapse. So your post-apocalyptic sporting events would likely be smaller and more local. Another potential issue is fields and arenas being destroyed or repurposed (for arable land, emergency shelter, etc.), in which case sports would need to be modified to use other spaces.

TL:DR: People would still find ways to play sports after the collapse of civilization, but events like the World Cup would be off the table.

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If you ask me, people would strive to make things look as much as possible to what was before the apocalypse.

This means, various bands of thugs as in many post-apocalyptic fictions are becoming less likely with time after the event.

More likely people will try to re-create the statehood, industry, armed forces, maybe democracy etc.

I do not expect massive violations of ethics in these games, like fights to death, gladiatorial combats, etc. Rather, the opposite, the people would strive to make such events as humane and hopeful as possible.

Also, even the worst apocalypse hardly can kick the humanity further than the 19th century technologically.

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