Dead goat polo, belt wrestling and eagle hunting – the Nomad Games are exactly what they sound like. Beginning in 2014 with only ten sports, this is the third time the event will be held on the shores of Lake Issyk Kol, and this year there will be thirty-seven sports, with 3,000 athletes from 80 countries taking part. There are all the countries you’d expect to be involved like Kazakhstan and Mongolia, but you might be surprised to see teams from the USA, Germany, Canada, the Netherlands, France and Switzerland, competing in archery, horse racing, falconry, and taigan hunting, just to name a few.
Not only can you see some of the most obscure sports you’ll ever have come across, but there’ll also be a traditional nomadic village built nearby in the picturesque Kyrrchyn Gorge. A large yurt village will be set up, based on the times of Genghis Khan, with hundreds of yurts and wooden constructions and loads of people in national dress. Various customs and traditions will be displayed – from the birth of a child and his first steps to a spectacular equestrian show.
For the rest of the evening you’ll have the chance to start exploring the Games. There are four venues – the hippodrome which is where all horse games take place; a sports centre for indoor activities; a beach area for some wrestling events and other outdoor sports, and then the amazing yurt village in the Kyrrchyn Gorge.
Day 2 & 3 – Thursday September 6th & Friday September 7th
Over these two days you’ll have the opportunity to experience a lot of the events of the Games.
Salbuurun is a sport based on the nomadic hunting routines. They would go on several day long group hunts, for which the best eagles, horses, riders, hunters and dogs would be selected. While returning home, the most nimble horseman would put the body of a wolf that they’d caught across the saddle and would gallop ahead of the group. The others would try to catch up with him and grab the wolf, attempting to display their own strength and agility. In the end the most best rider would return home to the village and to show everyone his victory, would throw the wolf’s carcass at the elder’s yurt. And thus, Kok Boru was born.
The most famous and possibly most novel sport is Kok Boru, known in Afghanistan and Tajikistan as Buzkashi, and sometimes referred to in English as “Dead Goat Polo”. “Kok Boru” literally means “Grey Wolf” and originates from when Kyrgyz nomads would hunt wolves and play games with them. Nowadays the game involves two teams of men on horseback, each trying to get the decapitated goat or sheep which is the centre of the game, into the other team’s goal, which is actually a large pit at the end of the pitch. It’s absurdly fast-paced, very rough, and extremely exciting, but the decapitation of the animal at the beginning of the game is definitely not a site for the squeamish. (Don’t worry, if you don’t want to see the animal actually losing its head and limbs, you can easily not watch this part!)
Ordo, which means “Khan’s headquarters” or “Khan’s Palace” is a game played by kicking knuckle bones out of a circle drawn on the ground. It represents a military map, and originally the game was used as a training scheme to teach soldiers various strategies to use to defeat their enemies.
Another sport most likely based on military training, though the origins of this one aren’t as clear, Er Enish is the wrestling of horsemen. The rules permit a lot of violence, and it’s thought that it was used to train horsemen in cruel methods of melee combat to take down their enemies. For example grabbing your opponent’s ribs or the muscles in their hands, or turning out their joints, are perfectly acceptable tactics to use.
In the Genghis Khan style yurt village in the Kyrrchyn Gorge, there will be eagle hunting, equestrian displays, and demonstrations of arts and crafts and other ancient domestic traditions, just to name a few.
Of course there are many more sports and events you’ll be able to witness, these are just a few of our favourites.
Day 4 – Saturday September 8th
Today most events’ finals will be held, so we can go back and see the best of the best at some of your favourite sports.
In the evening we’ll attend the Closing Ceremony, which will be a grand concert of local and foreign pop stars, musicians and dancers.
Day 5 – Sunday September 9th
Return to Bishkek, arriving in the early afternoon.