World Nomad Games: Kyrgyzstan 2018
The World Nomad Games began life back in 2014, a showcase for Central Asian culture, tradition and sport. Held in and around the Kyrgyz town of Cholpon-Ata, on the shores of Lake Issyk-kul, the games have grown in popularity and stature ever since. Held every two years, its third incarnation in 2018 was the biggest yet. From humble beginnings the event has grown rapidly, with numbers of sports, countries and participants trebling or quadrupling. The worldwide exposure has grown too, and with broadcast numbers increasing, it’s clear that the World Nomad Games are here to stay.
The Soul Of The Games
While the World Nomad Games have exciting sports like Kok Boru (‘dead goat polo’) and Er Enish (‘horseback wrestling) as their main events, the event is in fact about so much more. A huge number of cultural events also take place, showcasing the gentler side of the region’s traditions. In Kyrgyzstan, this side to the games has taken place in the dramatic setting of Kyrchyn Gorge, a wide grassy valley dominated by the surrounding mountains. It’s here that the personality of the Kyrgyz people has come forth – the true heart of the World Nomad Games. The violently competitive events in Cholpon-Ata drew large crowds, but the soul of the games was in Kyrchyn.
Thrilling individual events like horseback archery and hunting with eagles were held in the gorge; these were perfectly complemented by yurt building, weaving and blanket folding competitions. Temporary yurt villages were open to everyone, their owners inviting people in to eat and drink from overburdened tables. Impromptu singing sessions sprang up here and there. It was a true festival atmosphere.
After being held three times in Kyrgyzstan, in 2020, the next World Nomad Games will take place in Turkey. Beyond that, not much is known. One thing is certain though – it will be a very different games from those witnessed in the Kyrgyz Republic. The sports will be there, but the unique culture of the Kyrgyz people will be sadly missed. A chance however for Turkey to celebrate its own rich and complex culture.
For now let’s appreciate the people, skills, traditions and events of the third World Nomad Games – a fascinating insight into the rich, historical tapestry of a nomadic people.