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Beyond the widest sense of the logging of sport performance and results and the general statistical recording of types and levels of performance, the notion of the record refers to the highest level of achievement attained in a particular sport: the highest jump, the fastest run, the perfect score, the longest innings, the greatest number of home runs or touchdowns. Although a certain model of Olympism emphasized participation over winning, the idea of the record has been enshrined in the Olympic Games in its motto Citius, Altius, Fortius (Swifter, Higher, Stronger). Winners, but not performance times, heights, or distances, were documented in the ancient Olympic Games, and Allen Guttman identified the record as one of the seven defining features of modern sport: ‘Combine the impulse to quantification with the desire to win, to excel, to be the best—and the result is the concept of the record’ (From Ritual to Record: The Nature of Modern Sports, 1978). The record attracts extensive public attention, becoming what Guttman calls ‘a psychological presence in the mind of everyone involved in the event’, and drawing in—particularly in an age of the mass and multi-media—vast audiences. There is controversy over explicit record-breaking attempts, in that the chase for and obsession with the record, by competitor, broadcaster, and spectator alike, has been seen to disrupt—some might say corrupt—genuine competition. Also, the pursuit of records, and the rewards available to record-breakers, have without doubt fuelled the use of performance-enhancing drugs and dubious preparatory biomedical procedures.

Subjects: Sport and Leisure.

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