LIKE AN OLYMPICS FOR NOMADS, the Biennial World Nomad Games showcase the warrior skills of the great conquering peoples of the Asian steppes. From Mongolia, Montana, Turkey, Tartarstan (Russia) and even Japan, Korea and India, competitors flock to this martial sports extravaganza.
Wether 2020’s event survives BatFlu is unknown, but if you get the chance, the skills, the festival atmosphere, the colour and costumes are like none other. (Well, except Mongolia’s nadaam festival.)
If I ever attned another games, I think I will stay in the village, rather than town.
Spectators were easily able to mingle in the athletes' areas with the competitors and media.
I have seen no announcement about the 2020 edition of the Games, but coronavirus has probably caused their postponement.
A local wrestler flips his opponent to take gold.
Long distance, bare-back and junior races are just some of the equestrian events at the Hippodrome
It usually takes 4+ hours to erect a yert, but when there is a medal and national pride at stake, the winners do it in under 14 minutes.
At last! The Kyrgyzstan ntional anthem preceeds the main even, the kokbaru final, against Kazakhstan.
The opening rituals of the kokbaru, the Kyrgyzstan team circles the goal.
"Kok baru" translates as "grey wolf". In ancient times, nomads would return from a hunt to find wolves attacking their sheep or goats. Riders would chase the wolves, pick them up, and throw them around.
The lead rider here is invisble as he grabs the goat from the ground.
Riders jostle for control of the goat. When one emerges with it, others manoeuvre to block or receive.
The field is 200m lomg, with the "tai kazan" (goal) 70m from the centre. Naturally, in the villages, the field is however big they choose.
Opposing riders struggle pick up the goat, others man their opponent. Rules dictate how long they have to pick up before a restart; there are off-side like rules, fouls and apparently send-offs (mother's muzzle and mother's car!).
I first read about this game as"buzkashi" (Afghanistan) and never imagined I would get to see it.
The atmosphere in the stadium was electric, with the world's two best teams going head to head, but I would love to see it in the wild steppes, where rules would be mere suggestions.
Archery includes traditional Turkish, Kyrgyz and Korean, horseback and distance events.
The eagle hunting gold medalist with his companion.
Hunting with eagles is an important part of nomad culture, which is struggling to survive the modern world. Events like this help keep the traditions alive.
The buses in the distances is where the distance archers fired from. We were sceptical about being in danger, but when the first shot whistled past, me understood. The winning shots travelled over a kilometre.
Besides the "stan" nations, ethnic Tartar and Kyrgyz from Russia, China, Turkic nomads, Mongolian hunters, Japanese and Indian wrestlers, even American horsemen all come for the Games.
Over a 120m track, archers on horseback shoot at 3 targets, one facing, one side on, and the last one they must shoot backwards at.
No sights, sythnetic or composite materials are allowed, and competitors must wear their national dress.
An arrow seeks its target.
Time as well as accuracy is important. Missed targets see points deducted.
High in the saddle, horse full speed, a true warrior.
A Kyryz rider takes the backwards shot. It's no wonder the Mongols, Tartars ad Uzbeks conquered half the world.
Riders (or are they archers?) collect the arrows for another round. They must reload from the quivers, not hold arrows in their hands or teeth as they ride.
When you can ride a horse as hard as this guy, and fire off arrows at will, you are cool enough for selfies.
Visiting the Games was one of the coolest things I have done.
The smell of grilling lamb mingles with smoke from the fires in the Kyrchyn Valley village.