The Nadaam Festival
Mongolia's annual Nadaam Festival is where the entire countries champions in the "Three Kingly Sports" - Archery, Wrestling and Horseracing - all come together in spectacular style. The competition is nationwide, with many villages and towns having their own local Nadaams to determine the local champions. Then each summer, the best of these congregate - as do much of the population of the entire country - to Ulaan Baatar, for the national championships. The grand finals of Nadaam are held during the second week of July, and in 2012 are on July 11th to 13th.
Held just outside the national stadium, in a smaller venue purpose built for the sport, the event is divided up into mens and womens categories and is designed for accuracy. Competitors don full traditional regalia and have to hit a golf ball sized target at a distance of 75 to 100 yards. The accuracy is astonishing - archery as a means to capture game is still practiced in the country and using it can be a matter of survival or death during the winter months.
This is where a lot of money gets bet - and some of the worlds most powerful men come to compete. It's no coincidence that Japanese Sumo's sport is currently dominated by Mongolian's - this most ancient of muscle-flexing activities is almost balletic at times, and technique is part of the game here. Smaller adveriseries can and do beat far bulkier combatants, although at the top end, the big shots are almost professional in their training and skills. However, expect to see some gargantuan sized men with huge bellies and curious tiny shorts and waistcoats cutting a rug - and each other - down to size in the national stadium. The National Champion is known as a "Titan".
A competition of stamina and endurance as well as speed - this is a 27km gallop across the Mongolian plains, run by young riders aged 7 and upwards. Those big hearted Mongolian Horses (don't call them ponies) exert themselves to the limits to get across the finishing line - and with thousands of riders all competing at once, over a 27km course it ends up being a steady stream of finishers for hours. The winner though is lauded, the sweat treated as liquid gold and flung about like champagne, and a life of stud awaits the lucky horse who gets that far. As for the kids - they are born in the saddle and everybody has their own horse just as Chinese do a bicycle.
Getting To Nadaam: We suggest contacting Tseren Travel at firstname.lastname@example.org, who can help with either arranging hotel accommodation or even better, in a nearby Ger Camp, where you’ll experience something like the camping and nomadic lifestyle of the Mongolians.