What is the best sport?

In the sixth in our series of Big Questions, we have invited five writers to compete in an Olympian discussion: which is the best sport? Matthew Engel, a former editor of Wisden Cricketers' Almanack, introduces the debate. A sport, he writes, involves physical exercise and competition. In his view, "the best sport would have to combine outward simplicity with inner profundity".

Who do you think should be the winner? Over the next couple of weeks we will be publishing the arguments of our five other contributors online. But voting starts now.

Perhaps you will agree with Patrick Barclay, football columnist on the London Evening Standard, that football is the fairest and unfairest of games and therefore "the most morally interesting". Or you may be persuaded by Tanya Aldred, a sports columnist at the Daily Telegraph, that athletics is the simplest sport there is. "It is a body against a body, a mind against a mind." The editor of Cric.info.com, Sambit Bal, argues that the experience of cricket is "unlike any other, at once meditative and exhilarating". Our assistant editor, Samantha Weinberg, emphasises the unique aspect of equestrianism. "In which other Olympic sport do the male and female of the species (and that's the horses as well as their riders) compete on equal terms?" The Economist's online Americas editor, Dan Rosenheck, quotes John Updike in making the case for the daily grind of baseball. "A game of the long season, of relentless and gradual averaging out."

Have your say by voting for one of the five in the poll below. Or if the answer is clearly ice-hockey, pole-vaulting, rugby, lacrosse, golf, skiing or curling, or any other sport that requires exercise and competition, please tell us why.

Equestrianism
25% (391 votes)
Orienteering (other)
23% (361 votes)
Football
14% (222 votes)
Cricket
12% (180 votes)
Athletics
8% (118 votes)
Baseball
4% (55 votes)
hockey (other)
3% (42 votes)
Triathlon (other)
2% (29 votes)
Pickleball. It is relatively easy to learn to play, but very difficult to get very good at. It can be played by all ages,. (other)
2% (28 votes)
sleeping (other)
2% (26 votes)
American Football, is by design the most exciting and entertaining of sports. It is the modern day parallel to the gladiatorism. (other)
2% (24 votes)
Basketball (other)
1% (19 votes)
orienteering is the best sport. I prefer rapid climbing, but must do more hill work to get the fitness to excel in that terrain. (other)
1% (18 votes)
Rogaining (other)
1% (15 votes)
Judo (other)
1% (15 votes)
The marathon...the most elemental sport (other)
1% (15 votes)
Tennis, extreme physical and mental activity, compares to a game of chess where smarts can beat skill. (other)
1% (14 votes)
tennis (other)
1% (13 votes)
Orienteering (other)
1% (12 votes)
urban and sprint orienteering (other)
1% (12 votes)
orienteering, physical and mental challenge (other)
1% (11 votes)
American Football: Combines elite athleticism with focused strategy, all in a game that has many dramatic moments (other)
1% (10 votes)
Orienteering - getting to race corss country on untrodden terrain (other)
1% (9 votes)
Tennis, enjoyable, can be played to socially or competitively, in most countries, for any duration, and is good for you. (other)
1% (9 votes)
surf, because it is an ever changing environment and your mind & body must be in synch with the ocean. no two waves are the same (other)
1% (9 votes)
Orienteering - Sport for all, exciting, fun, all year round (other)
1% (8 votes)
Orienteering - combination of physical and mental challenges (other)
1% (8 votes)
Orienteering combining the talents of map/ compass reading and running in order to complete and course in the forest (other)
1% (8 votes)
American football (other)
1% (8 votes)
Orienteering. Perfect combination of physical and mental exercise. (other)
0% (7 votes)
SWIMMING (other)
0% (7 votes)
Orienteering - just try it and you'll see what I mean (other)
0% (7 votes)
Orientering (other)
0% (7 votes)
cycling (other)
0% (6 votes)
Rugby (other)
0% (6 votes)
wrestling from my perspective is the most moral sport. Takes control both mentally, morally and physically, (other)
0% (6 votes)
Gymnastics (other)
0% (6 votes)
skiing! (other)
0% (6 votes)
Golf (other)
0% (6 votes)
Rugby: it's the ultimate social game. (other)
0% (5 votes)
orienteering - combines excercise with thinking (other)
0% (5 votes)
Track (other)
0% (5 votes)
Lacrosse it involves a lot of physical ability and endurance to run up and down the field in the fastest known sport (other)
0% (5 votes)
Sailing (other)
0% (5 votes)
ORIENTEERING - The best test of physical endurance and intelligence (other)
0% (5 votes)
badminton (other)
0% (4 votes)
Ice Hockey (other)
0% (4 votes)
Soccer (other)
0% (4 votes)
Orienteering - a double whammy- something to think about while you run (other)
0% (4 votes)
Orienteering - it is clearly far better than everything else by mixing running with thinking (other)
0% (4 votes)
swimming, the most healthy, life long, can be pursued way into old age. (other)
0% (4 votes)
orienteering, the fact you have to be strong metally and keep focused even though you're totally exhausted (other)
0% (3 votes)
Hurling (other)
0% (3 votes)
CLIMBING (other)
0% (3 votes)
swimming, rugby and tennis (other)
0% (3 votes)
Skateboarding, because of the freedome and infinite possibilities (other)
0% (3 votes)
Orienteering - because of its' required combination of both physical endurance and mental prowess. (other)
0% (3 votes)
Australian Rules Football - simply the fastest, most physical and exciting team game I've ever seen (other)
0% (3 votes)
Squash (other)
0% (3 votes)
Sailing: the sheer pleasure of trapeze sailing in a catamaran against the blowing wind, the saltiness of the water... (other)
0% (3 votes)
Rowing (other)
0% (3 votes)
Orienteering - true test of brains, fitness, and ability to stay calm and constantly reassess one's decisions - no time-outs! (other)
0% (3 votes)
Track and Field (other)
0% (3 votes)
Orienteering- combines both a mental/intellectual challenge with physical (running) prowess across rugged terrain (other)
0% (3 votes)
Orienteering (a sport demanding speed, agility, stamina, and intellect) (other)
0% (2 votes)
Running. Barefoot (indeed naked) children run to compete and simply 'for sport'. And you can do it your whole life. (other)
0% (2 votes)
Orienteering. The best test of physical endurance and intelligence (other)
0% (2 votes)
Rogaining as it requires both a high level of endurance while needing the athlete to think and plan (other)
0% (2 votes)
Surely Boxing, if Tanya's definition of a sport is agreed with, of which I concur (other)
0% (2 votes)
Mixed Martial Arts (other)
0% (2 votes)
Tennis requires a nonpareil degree of both physical and mental fitness and competition that is a match for anyone's ambition. (other)
0% (2 votes)
orienteering, because anyone of any age can take part. (other)
0% (2 votes)
Rugby. No other sport in the world builds character, personality, team spirit, rule keeping - while being awesome physical condi (other)
0% (2 votes)
Tennis, because every few seconds or minutes a point is made on the court. Every single second counts. (other)
0% (2 votes)
Dance (other)
0% (2 votes)
Orienteering - it's like running flat out for 10 km whilst playing chess. (other)
0% (2 votes)
Kendo. Martial art that requires fitness, but also experience. Accessible to all. Fighting combined with Zen. (other)
0% (2 votes)
Boxing (other)
0% (2 votes)
Swimming, healthy, almost no risk of being injured (other)
0% (2 votes)
Relay Orienteering (other)
0% (2 votes)
Squash - combines athleticism, strategy, will, stamina, speed, dexterity, objective, bravery. (other)
0% (2 votes)
sailing, male and female can compete as equal (other)
0% (2 votes)
Soccer you can play anywhere (other)
0% (2 votes)
skiing (other)
0% (1 vote)
Windsurfing (other)
0% (1 vote)
Tennis. You need high concentration, accuracy in high speed, strenght, powerful strikes, speed in your legs, all combined. (other)
0% (1 vote)
high athleticism, ok for different body types, scoring more accurately reflects performance, bravery and complexity of tactic (other)
0% (1 vote)
CrossFit (other)
0% (1 vote)
Boxing, boxing, boxing (other)
0% (1 vote)
surf (other)
0% (1 vote)
Hang gliding, know thiself and the atmosphere and you can travel far with nothing but some fabric and alluminium tubes (other)
0% (1 vote)
Table Tennis (other)
0% (1 vote)
Rugby - team building, discipline, mental and physical strength building, character building at the highest level (other)
0% (1 vote)
Running. Wherever, whenever, alone or with anyone, this is the original state of movement. (other)
0% (1 vote)
Soccer (Futbol) (other)
0% (1 vote)
Rugby, It is required physical strength and strangeness (other)
0% (1 vote)
literball (other)
0% (1 vote)
Rugby (The best of Soccer & Am. Football, combined) (other)
0% (1 vote)
Rugby. The motivation to surpass yourself comes from the spirit created by a unique comraderie, not found in other sports. (other)
0% (1 vote)
Orienteering, requires a sharp mind and the highest level of physical fitness. The fastest wins. (other)
0% (1 vote)
Orienteering. Combining aerobic exercise to run fast, mental focus to navigate, strength to jump over stuff in the woods (other)
0% (1 vote)
AFL/Gaelic Football (other)
0% (1 vote)
Ajedrez (other)
0% (1 vote)
horse riding (other)
0% (1 vote)
the one you play, not the one you watch (other)
0% (1 vote)
Rugby - sheer athleticism and tactics combined! (other)
0% (1 vote)
high altitude mountaineering (other)
0% (1 vote)
Orienteering: It combines elements of stamina with deductive reasoning through map reading. (other)
0% (1 vote)
Hockey. Such skill, speed and excitement just wasn't anticipated, even though I used to play it. (other)
0% (1 vote)
Modern Pentathalon because it tests athletes completely especially if not combined. (other)
0% (1 vote)
Fencing. The mind and body both working at top speed in concert. (other)
0% (1 vote)
MTB Orienteering (other)
0% (1 vote)
rugby-caters for all shapes, sizes, genders and ages. Also a very 'social' sport! (other)
0% (1 vote)
Krav Maga (Martial arts in general) (other)
0% (1 vote)
Surfing (other)
0% (1 vote)
Volleyball, a perfect combination of teamwork, strength and grace (other)
0% (1 vote)
trithlon - because one has to master three disciplines which adds variety and the fitness benefits are great (other)
0% (1 vote)
Swim because I think it makes you to move all your body. (other)
0% (1 vote)
Rowing; a spot where uniquely the competitor is tested for all strength, fitness, skill, intelligence and commitment! (other)
0% (1 vote)
Lacrosse (other)
0% (1 vote)
sex (other)
0% (1 vote)
Brazilian jiu jitsu (other)
0% (1 vote)
Wrestling: simple rules, the epitome/synthesis of strength and strategy; pure, direct competition (other)
0% (1 vote)
professional wrestling - nWo (other)
0% (1 vote)
boxing, voted by a panel of IOC sport scientists as the most demanding sport (http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/sportSkills) (other)
0% (1 vote)
lk (other)
0% (1 vote)
Golf - because involves high levels of concentration as well as exercise for a wide range of ages (other)
0% (1 vote)
Bicycle Polo (Hard Court Version) (other)
0% (1 vote)
Boxe, because the best player has to combine power and strategy. (other)
0% (1 vote)
RugbyUnion (other)
0% (1 vote)
Cycling, endurance, strength, power, speed, willingness, cooperation, strategy (other)
0% (1 vote)
Rugby because it requires a greater degree andtrite skills than other sports. (other)
0% (1 vote)
NASCAR!!!! WOOOOO #3 (other)
0% (1 vote)
Orienteering - brain and braun against your competitiors, and you need BOTH to win. (other)
0% (1 vote)
Orienteering. The best test of phsical endurance and intelligence. (other)
0% (1 vote)
Orienteering: requires fast body AND fast mind (other)
0% (1 vote)
Orienteering. (other)
0% (1 vote)
Basketball. No other sport demands such a combination of agility, strength, speed, and team cohesion. (other)
0% (1 vote)
rugby. intense competition, no fakery of fouls, officials who actually make calls. (other)
0% (1 vote)
Gymnastics: combines strength, endurance, mental fortitude, and artistic form (other)
0% (1 vote)
Orienteering: it combines the power of the body, and the power of the mind. You can run, but can you think as well? (other)
0% (1 vote)
Orienteering: Fast-paced decision making in unfamiliar terrain. (other)
0% (1 vote)
Soccer - strong physical athleticism, strategic and tactical choices, and individual and team competition. (other)
0% (1 vote)
Ultimate Frisbee. "Spirit of the Game" philosophy. No ref. low cost. Coed. Best running sport of all. (other)
0% (0 votes)
Swimming It doesn't damage your joints (other)
0% (0 votes)
The best sport is the one you play your whole life. It's about the joy of movement and progress toward mastery. (other)
0% (0 votes)
Basketball - it's a dynamic combination of athleticism, agility, strength, speed, showmanship and, importantly, the mind (other)
0% (0 votes)
Total voters: 1547