World Nomad Games kicks off in Kyrgyz Republic

The nature of sports may have evolved over time, but medieval ethnic sports continue to enjoy popularity in several corners of the world.

Celebrating sports in its most raw, original form, the 3rd World Nomad Games kicked off in Kyrgyzstan on Monday, and will see nations such as the UK, Singapore, Philippines, Turkey, Hungary, and Kazakhstan participate in sports such as polo with a goat carcass, wrestling on horseback, javelin on horseback, traditional belt wrestling, eagle hunting and falconry.

This year, the Central Asian plateaus of Kyrgyzstan will host the Games for the third time since its inception in 2012. According to media reports, over 2000 athletes from 80 countries have converged in Cholpon Ata to participate across 37 sports.

The opening ceremony started at the racetrack in Issyk-Kul region, according to local news reports.

Replete with phenomenal showmanship and cultural showcases, the Games attract spectators from all over the world who crave for an insight into ancient cultures and how they have survived for generations in certain pockets of the world.

The next few days will include a series of heats all leading to the coveted finals in each discipline. 

There are 7 varieties of wrestling, including Mas-wrestling, 6 involving horses, eagles or dogs, and 3 intelligence games. Notable among them is Kok Boru, the centuries-old variation of polo involving a headless goat instead of a ball, which happens to be the national sport of Afghanistan.

On Monday, the Kyrgyz team defeated Mongolia in the first bout of Kok Boru (29-7). Another game called Ordo uses kneecaps from cows to play bowls.

Er Enish, which is essentially wrestling on horseback, ends when one of the fighters is unsaddled and is not for the faint-hearted. Besides other kinds of wrestling, the Games presents a unique opportunity to witness traditional archery, acrobatic displays on glass and horseback and bride capturing.

Salbuurun constitutes several kinds of hunting. In Burkut Saluu, an eagle has been trained to track and capture its prey, traditionally a rabbit or fox, but substituted for a stuffed animal in the Games.

Besides dog racing and hunting, another exotic sport is falconry or Dalba Oynotuu, which decides its winner on the basis of which bird responds to its owner from across the field the quickest. All these games are rooted in folklore and cultures that formed an integral part of indigenous communities and their ways of life.

Regarded as the Olympics for nomads, the biannual tournament provides a platform for sports that the world has forgotten, much like millions of lost Nomadic languages. The aim is to preserve and revive indigenous cultures by strengthening cultural ties between the participating countries, and showcase these nomadic sports on an international level.

There is a UNICEF children’s contingent participating in the Games this year as well.

The Fourth World Nomad Games will be held in Turkey in 2020

Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius 

All photographs were taken by Karanjit Singh, Deputy Director of International Division at Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

KyrgyzstanSportsWorld Nomad Games