Mongolia's three manly sports - Alvinology

Mongolia’s three manly sports

Mongolia's three manly sports - Alvinology
Mongolian wrestlers awaiting their match

The Rio Olympics may be all the rage now, but Mongolia also recently held its own sporting extravaganza – the annual Naadam games.

I’ve been wanting to attend this festival since I read about it a long time back, but due to scheduling problems, I couldn’t attend it the first time I was in Mongolia.

But no matter!

This time round, I planned an entire trip around Naadam, and I got four friends to go along with me.

The festival, which was held on July 10-13, centers around the three “manly sports” of horse racing, wrestling and archery.

These sports have been practiced since the time of 13th century warlord and national hero Genghis Khan, and competitors come from around the country to take part in the festival.

Mongolia's three manly sports - Alvinology
This year’s Naadam marked three anniversaries so it was grander than usual
Mongolia's three manly sports - Alvinology
This year’s Naadam was also held just before Mongolia hosted the Asem Summit, its largest diplomatic gathering to date

But before the Naadam sporting competitions begin, there are a number of national ceremonies and concerts, which makes this an exciting period to be in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s capital.

Mongolia's three manly sports - Alvinology
Naadam celebrations in Chinggis Khan Square
Mongolia's three manly sports - Alvinology
Police watching over the Naadam celebrations in Chinggis Khan Square
Mongolia's three manly sports - Alvinology
Naadam celebrations in Chinggis Khaan Square
Mongolia's three manly sports - Alvinology
Women in ethnic costumes in Chinggis Khan Square
Mongolia's three manly sports - Alvinology
The central stadium where the opening ceremony for Naadam was held
Mongolia's three manly sports - Alvinology
Monks watching the Naadam opening ceremony
Mongolia's three manly sports - Alvinology
We were watching too
Mongolia's three manly sports - Alvinology
Opening ceremony
Mongolia's three manly sports - Alvinology
Opening ceremony
Mongolia's three manly sports - Alvinology
Opening ceremony
Mongolia's three manly sports - Alvinology
Opening ceremony
Mongolia's three manly sports - Alvinology
Opening ceremony
Mongolia's three manly sports - Alvinology
Wrestlers and archers at the opening ceremony
Mongolia's three manly sports - Alvinology
Mongolian wrestlers at the opening ceremony
Mongolia's three manly sports - Alvinology
Opening ceremony
Mongolia's three manly sports - Alvinology
Families enjoying their picnics outside the central stadium
Mongolia's three manly sports - Alvinology
Taking a selfie with a champion Mongolian wrestler (didn’t get his name though)
Mongolia's three manly sports - Alvinology
Carnival games at the horse racing venue
Mongolia's three manly sports - Alvinology
Free concert in Chinggis Khan Square
Mongolia's three manly sports - Alvinology
Mongolian rock band Haranga performing in Chinggis Khan Square
Mongolia's three manly sports - Alvinology
Fireworks over Chinggis Khan Square

And now, for the main event – the Naadam games!

But first, something interesting about wrestling.

You may notice that the wrestlers are wearing a costume (zodog) where the front is open but tied at the bottom with a simple string knot, exposing their chest.

According to legend, on one occasion a wrestler defeated all other combatants, then ripped open the zodog to reveal her breasts, showing everyone that she was a woman.

From that day, the zodog had to reveal the wrestler’s chest.

Mongolia's three manly sports - Alvinology
Wrestlers getting ready for their match
Mongolia's three manly sports - Alvinology
The wrestling competition – the goal is to get your opponent to touch his back, knee or elbow to the ground
Mongolia's three manly sports - Alvinology
The wrestlers were too far away, so we made do with watching these two teens practice their moves
Mongolia's three manly sports - Alvinology
President Tsakhia Elbegdorj firing off an arrow
Mongolia's three manly sports - Alvinology
Mongolians in traditional outfits at the archery venue
Mongolia's three manly sports - Alvinology
Horse racing
Mongolia's three manly sports - Alvinology
The crowd at the horse racing venue
Mongolia's three manly sports - Alvinology
Horse racing
Mongolia's three manly sports - Alvinology
Watching the horse races

Actually, we found the opening ceremony much more impressive than the actual games as there were too many spectators and we couldn’t get up close to the action.

The archery event was particularly bad as we only managed to see President Elbegdorj shoot his arrow, and even then it wasn’t a good view.

So some say the countryside Naadams are better as they allow you to get up close and personal, and it’s generally a more intimate affair.

Well, I guess there’s only one way to find out.

Mongolia's three manly sports - Alvinology
We didn’t get to watch the archery competition, but at least we tried it
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