The First World Nomad Games in Central Asia
The world Nomad Games, also known as the nomad Olympics, is a six-day event on the shores of Kyrgyzstan’s Issyk-Kol Lake in Kyrgyzstan. They took place in mid September from the 9th through the 14th. The opening ceremony featured an over the top spectacle including a procession of more than 350 sportsmen. The games themselves consist of 10 events, each having a strong cultural significance.
Within ten minutes of arriving, I watched as Kazakh wrestler and his Afghani opponent flew well off the mats and directly over my head into a crowd of excited spectators. While the danger of being squished beneath three hundred pounds of Central Asian sportsmen would come and go for the next six days, the pace and excitement of the World Nomad Games in Kyrgyzstan would never once let up.
Organized as a celebration of all things nomad in the guide of a sports competition along the lines of the Olympics or Asian Games, the World Nomad Games featured a collection of cultural exhibitions and unusual sports that would make any traveler or adventurer tingle with wanderlust. For most foreign visitors the sporting highlight of any trip to Central Asia is a game of Kok Boru, and true to form at the World Nomad Games the Kok Boru competitions attracted some of the largest crowds and rowdiest spectators to watch two teams of horsemen battling over the body of recently beheaded goat.
Of all the events on offer, perhaps the greatest surprise was the ‘Er Enish’ horseback wrestling competition. Two riders from opposing teams meet in a large chalk circle and, after being introduced to the crowds watching from the grandstand, attempt to drag one another from horse to ground. The team from Afghanistan put on some of the most entertaining matches here, though towards the end of the competition they stormed off the field en masse after accusing a referee of hitting one of their riders with his horsewhip during a particularly heated match. As with quite a few of the competitions, the Kyrgyz team took home a majority of the medals.