The World Nomad Games! The Olympics of Central Asia!
The World Nomad Games are a crazy sporting and cultural event that has been held every two years since 2014 in Kyrgyzstan. It's a mad display of Central Asian life, and of nomadic lifestyles. Forget the Olympics. The World Nomad Games is the sporting event to go to!
The games are held in Cholpon-Ata, on the shores of Isssyk Kul Lake, and thousands of competitors, media and travellers visit for the week-long event which showcases the best of the noamdic world's sports.
From hunting with eagles to dead goat polo - I know, I told you this was a mad event! - this is the world's most insane sporting event!
Here's what happened when I visited the World Nomad Games, in Kyrgyzstan!
Kok Boru: Dead Goat Polo on Horses
This event is the highlight of the games although it's not for the faint of heart. It's essentially dead goat polo on horses. Teams charge in on horses to pick up a headless dead goat carcass before attempting to race across the field to fling the carcass into a dead goat bin to score a goal. It's brutal, fast paced and dangerous, but thrilling to watch if you don't mind seeing the dead goat being flung around.
The winning team take the carcass away as a trophy to cook up as a feast, so none of the unfortunate goat is wasted. In the final at the main stadium, Uzbekistan lost to the hosts Kyrgyzstan while the crowd went wild.
Hunting with Eagles
A traditional custom in Kyrgyz culture is to train an eagle, falcon or hawk from birth to hunt. These birds of prey are raised as fearless predators and are trained in their art by the locals. At the World Nomad Games, skills were put to the test as the locals sent off their birds, and had to get them to return as many times as possible within a set time period.
It was remarkable to watch the close bond between man and bird.
Closeby to the birds of prey, archers were ready in their country's national dress to shoot it out in traditional Kyrgyz archery. There were nationalities from across the world, including from the US, who were decked out in cowboy hats for the occasion.
Being a disorganised but resoundingly exciting, the archers were only told the rules moments before they began to shoot, ensuring chaos and spectacle for the crowd.
The real event though was the horseback archery, an event which demonstrates nomadic skill and horsemanship. Three targets, three arrows. The competitors had to shoot from the galloping horse to try and score as many points as they could on each pass down the range.
It was thrilling to see, and there were close battles of skill for victory.
And as if those horseback and nomadic events weren't enough, back at the Hippodrome, huge wrestlers competed on horseback - including an ex-MMA fighter from the USA - for supremacy in the traditional horseback wrestling event.
It was tough and brutal.
All Words and Pictures by Richard Collett
(You can read my blog, Travel Tramp, for more info on the World Nomad Games!)[https://www.travel-tramp.com/the-world-nomad-games-opening-ceremonies/]