World Nomad Games

World Nomad Games


‘Girl in traditional dress performs an impressive display’: photograph © Viktor Drachev TASS/Getty Images

2016 was a great summer for us sports enthusiasts, with a succession of successful events. After the Olympics, the inspirational Paralympics took place in Rio – with Belarus staging an under-publicised pro-Russia protest during the opening ceremony, then the Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan hosted the second World Nomad Games in Cholpon-Ata City’s brand new hippodrome beside Lake Issyk Kul. Many of those attending stayed in traditional yurts in Kyrchyn Gorge where there were concerts and activities for spectators. Two thousand competitors from forty countries participated; some nations have long nomadic histories, others were mainly there to party, for the crack of the Games.

It is a time when competitors pitch up from all over the world, a place where riders on horseback wrestle and try to catch a dead goat and hurl it into a goal, a game that might be worth a slot at one of Scotland’s Highland Shows, if our polo players are willing to ditch their mallets and give it a shot. Chasing around after the decapitated carcase of a goat would doubtless amuse Royalty, worthies and visitors to the Braemar Games, for example. It would complement and make a change from tugs-of-war, kailyard kitsch, stunt and steam displays, Scottish country dancing, pipe band competitions and face-painting.

The World Nomad Games also featured such unorthodox disciplines as hunting with eagles, tossing bones and javelin throwing. The fiery highlight of the Kyrgyzstan Games was the horse-riding competition: Kok-boru (gray wolf) dates back to when wolves that preyed on livestock were hunted. Fierce competition was also evident in stick wrestling, an event in which two competitors try to gain control of a small stick.

Golden eagles, caber throwing, rewilding with wolves in the Highlands …  I understand that the games are designed to celebrate the nomadic heritage of the Central Asian nations, but already Scotland, as well as our diasporic credentials, has many ingredients in place to participate. As a nation we are well-suited and could take a turn – not just by borrowing or copying events – but at hosting the Games, or at least sending a team. I suggested to my gymnast granddaughter that she emulate the archer quine (pictured), with a view to putting on a bow-and-arrow display at her local Lonach Gathering, but she said that her ticklish toes would make the feat impossible.

I thought this article would crash my spellcheck; the only word it challenged was ‘quine’ (see footnote).

“In the modern world, people are forgetting their history, and there is a threat of extinction for traditional cultures,” said Kyrgyz president Almazbek Atambayev at the opening ceremony in Cholpon-Ata. “Nomadic civilisation is a good example of sustainable development, which is what all of humanity is looking for today. The Games were designed to unite, not divide into nations.”

With twenty-five golds Kyrgyzstan topped the medals table.


Quine = lass, girl.

Caber = a big stick.

Kyrgyz president Almazbek Atambayev was a visitor to Aberdeen this summer.   Lonely Planet photographs  TRT World  Davide Monteleone works on independent projects using photography, video and text

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s