In the twentieth century attitudes towards sporting activities underwent many changes. But, then again, there were many events which had an overreaching effect on western society during this time. Through it all sporting organizations grew into institutions although there were years of privation during the depression and the world wars.
The wars, especially WWI, underlined the need for a fit population ready for the military. Britain in particular had difficulty finding fit recruits, no doubt a result of poor nutrition and straightened living conditions in some areas. Physical training and sports became a part of the military arsenal even for the more mechanized forces if books like The Royal Canadian Air Force: Exercise Plans for Physical Fitness are anything to go by.
The role of women changed. The suffragette movement eventually got them the vote and more of a say in how things were run. More changes came about as less restrictive clothing and less restrictive attitudes about what women could and couldn’t do were accepted. Women and girls were able and encouraged to take part in fitness and sporting activities more and more as the century unfolded. Until the present in the western world, where we take it for granted that women will play sports as amateurs and professionals.
Not only were more activities available for the average person, but there were also more opportunities to be a spectator. These spectator sports, in turn ramped up interest in watching and perhaps emulating sports heroes.
Royal Canadian Air Force: Exercise Plans for Physical Fitness. Information Canada, Ottawa, 1962.
Wiggins, David K. Sport in America: From Colonial Leisure to Celebrity Figures and Globalization. Human Kinetics, Champaign, Il. 2010