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Many sports are practiced in Iran, both traditional and modern. Tehran, for example, was the first city in the Middle East to host the Asian Games in 1974, and continues to host and participate in major international sporting events to this day. Freestyle wrestling has been traditionally regarded as Iran's national sport, however today, the most popular sport in Iran is football (soccer). The annual government's budget for sport was about $80 million in 2010 or about $1 dollar per person.

Sports and athletic exercises were among the most fundamental daily pursuits of the people in ancient Iran.

The society attached special status to sportsmen who thanks to their physical strength and courage, defended their family and homeland when the need arose.They were welcomed everywhere with much enthusiasm, the people took much pride in their sportsmen and praised and admired them for their courageous deeds.

According to their religious teaching, the Iranian Zoroastrians in their prayers sought first the beauties of heaven and then physical strength and mental power. They believed in a healthy and powerful body.

The ancient Iranians attached spiritual meaning to their spoils activities which they modeled on their weapons. Even the Mages (religious sages) while engaging in prayers in their temples held a mace in their hands, not unlike the British bishops who hung swords on their belts.

Avesta, the sacred book of the ancient religions of Iran glorifies the champions and sportsmen as much, if not more than saints and men of God. The older generation made arrangements for the ancient narratives and epics to be read to the young either from books or from those who had learned them from their elders.

This tradition has survived until today and outlived the rest of ages. Thus, even today, it can be observed that among the tribes and in the tea- houses storytelling is practiced with the same enthusiasm as it was in bygone ages.

The extent to which the Iranians were interested in their heroes and champions is revealed, among other things, by the fact that in the Persian language there are over 30 words to label the concept of a hero or champion.

In ancient Iran, youths under 24 years of age received thorough training in the sport of their time which included miming, horsemanship, polo, dart throwing, wrestling, boxing, archery, fencing, etc. They were taught under conditions of severe hardship so that when the need arose they could endure the adverse conditions of war such as hunger, thirst, fatigue, heat, cold, etc.

 

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