Competition is, in general, a contest or rivalry between two or more entities, organisms, animals, individuals, economic groups or social groups, etc., for territory, a niche, for scarce resources, goods, for mates, for prestige, recognition, for awards, for group or social status, or for leadership and profit. It arises whenever at least two parties strive for a goal which cannot be shared, where one's gain is the other's loss (an example of which is a zero-sum game).
Competition occurs naturally between living organisms which co-exist in the same environment. For example, animals compete over water supplies, food, mates, and other biological resources. Humans usually compete for food and mates, though when these needs are met deep rivalries often arise over the pursuit of wealth, power, prestige, and fame.
Competition is often considered to be the opposite of cooperation, however in the real world, mixtures of cooperation and competition are the norm. Optimal strategies to achieve goals are studied in the branch of mathematics known as game theory.
Competition is also a major tenet of market economies and business. It is often associated with business competition as most companies are in competition with at least one other firm over the same group of customers. Also competition inside a company is usually stimulated with the larger purpose of meeting and reaching higher quality of services or improved products that the company may produce or develop.
The United States Olympic Committee's headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The Olympic Games are regarded as the international pinnacle of sports competition.
While some sports and games (such as fishing or hiking) have been viewed as primarily recreational, most sports are considered competitive. The majority involve competition between two or more persons (sometimes using horses or cars). For example, in a game of basketball, two teams compete against one another to determine who can score the most points. When there is no set reward for the winning team, many players gain a sense of pride. In addition, extrinsic rewards may also be given. Athletes, besides competing against other humans, also compete against nature in sports such as whitewater kayaking or mountaineering, where the goal is to reach a destination, with only natural barriers impeding the process. A regularly scheduled (for instance annual) competition meant to determine the "best" competitor of that cycle is called a championship.
Competitive sports are governed by codified rules agreed upon by the participants. Violating these rules is considered to be unfair competition. Thus, sports provide artificial (not natural) competition; for example, competing for control of a ball, or defending territory on a playing field is not an innate biological factor in humans. Athletes in sports such as gymnastics and competitive diving compete against each other in order to come closest to a conceptual ideal of a perfect performance, which incorporates measurable criteria and standards which are translated into numerical ratings and scores by appointed judges.
Sports competition is generally broken down into three categories: individual sports, such as archery; dual sports, such as doubles tennis, and team sports competition, such as cricket or football. While most sports competitions are recreation, there exist several major and minor professional sports leagues throughout the world. The Olympic Games, held every four years, is usually regarded as the international pinnacle of sports competition.