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London 2012’s Sebastian Coe and Berkshire’s Encyclopedia of World Sport,

Sports is one of the most important ways the world comes together, and Berkshire is proud to have published more about global sports than any other publisher. We began in 1996 with the first Encyclopedia of World Sport (which was published by ABC-CLIO (in those days, Berkshire developed the content but was not a publisher). That three-volume work was lauded by The Times of London as “the newest sporting bible” and was ABC-CLIO’s biggest seller (I heard reports of a champagne party in their office when a big sales milestone was reached).

Their charming, erudite Oxford director, Tony Sloggett, managed to arrange for a foreword from Sebastian Coe, a famous Olympic runner, and I’m including it here. I was glad to hear that Coe had become the head of the London 2012 Olympic effort. If you read his foreword, you’ll see how it makes sense for him to promote the Olympics. The modern Olympic Games were not just meant to be a reenactment of an ancient sports festival. They were meant to help a rapidly globalizing world. The founders believed that through sports people would come to understand one another, to see what they have in common and not just their differences. They believed that sports would make young people better equipped to cope with social, political, and economic challenges of the early twentieth century and become responsible global citizens. Pierre de Coubertin and his supporters also believed that sports would let people get to know the people of other countries and encourage a reduction of hatred, distrust, and prejudice. At Berkshire, we share their conviction that sports can, at their best, make the world a better place and that this is an opportunity for everyone involved in promoting sports in the 21st century.

Here’s a bit about Sebastian Coe : “Seb is a double Olympic Champion and 12-time world record holder in athletics. He won gold in the 1500m and silver in the 800m at both the Moscow 1980 and Los Angeles 1984 Games. He retired from competitive athletics in 1990 and became a Conservative MP and Private Secretary to William Hague. In 2002 he was made a Peer – Lord Coe of Ranmore. He received a knighthood in the 2006 New Year’s Honours List.”

Foreword to Berkshire’s Encyclopedia of World Sport (one-volume condensed edition):

Over the period of the last twenty years, and particularly during my time as Vice-Chairman of the United Kingdom Sports Council, I was frequently asked if I could recommend a suitable publication which would cover a wide range of sporting activities and topics. The requests indicated the need for a publication of both width and gravitas. Apart from general enquiries, there were a number of requests from those involved in further and higher education and from individuals undertaking a variety of research activities. I was able to offer advice regarding physiology, coaching/training techniques, the Olympic Games, the usual sporting biographies and autobiographies and some subject specific works. However, at the time, I was unable to recommend a single comprehensive volume providing authoritative treatment of hundreds of sports throughout the world. I am pleased to say that this is no longer the case and I can strongly recommend the Encyclopedia of World Sport.

The Encyclopedia of World Sport certainly has both width and gravitas. Not only does the volume take an international perspective but it covers those sporting activities which do not enjoy a high international media profile, as well as many which enjoy no media profile, as well as many which enjoy no media profile at all like speedball, softball, barrel jumping and a variety of traditional ethnic/national activities like African and Asian sports.

The approach taken in this publication includes the sociological and historical aspects of specific sports and it also draws attention to many of the major issues in sport today. The historical aspects are particularly informative as can be seen in the chapter on baseball: was its origin the old English game of rounders? The historical detail is central in the demonstration of the importance of sport as a mode of cultural expression. This is particularly pertinent today at a time when there is an emergence of an international sporting culture driven by television, electronic communications and modern transport systems. The recognition of the contribution which sport and related activities make to culture is especially valuable in the context of the performance/participation debate. Many performance sports at elite level are, to the performer and the governing body, financially rewarding and form part of the emerging international sporting culture. Such sports will continue to have large numbers of participants fuelled by media coverage.

However, perhaps the most significant contribution made by this publication is the documentation of the myriad of sporting activities, which are regarded, rightly or wrongly, as minority sports. In most cases these activities, although encompassing the pursuit of excellence and in some cases professionalism, are fundamentally about participation. Accordingly, the need for a collected work such as this, recording their origins and socio-historical context, is axiomatic. The Encyclopedia of World Sport meets this need in an accessible manner.

This is a publication that is of enormous value to students of sport, history and sociology as well as to individuals seeking enlightenment in any, or all, of these disciplines.

Sebastian Coe, OBE

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