In my blog yesterday, I mentioned that my friend Lynn had drawn to my attention that the first World Nomad Games are currently taking place in Kyrgyzstan – in fact, on the shores of Issyk-Kul, in Cholpon-Ata City.
Information on this event is, alas, a bit thin on the ground and I seem to have missed a BBC TV report from the Games. They started on Tuesday and climax tomorrow with the finals of the traditional Central Asian sport of Kok-Boru (goat dragging – also known as Buzkashi and Kokpar).
Unfortunately, this blog has no contacts in Kyrgyzstan (though I am open to offers), so I am reliant heavily on the BBC who were told by nomad storyteller Doolotbek Sidikov:
“We inherited Kok-Boru from our ancestors. Courageous and brave men were picked up to look after the horses and sheep and often wolves would attack them. When a pack of wolves would attack them, they would surround them in a circle and then grab the wolves with their bare hands to throw them away, sometimes tearing them apart. People then started using a dead goat as game to practise.”
It sounds similar to how football in Scotland developed from regular Saturday night drinking bouts in Glasgow.
But the World Nomad Games in Kyrgyzstan is far more that goat-dragging. It is a multi-sport event which also includes Oodarysh (wrestling on a horse), Tyin Emmei (picking up a coin while riding a horse at full speed) and the not-fully-explained Toguz Korkool. As far as I can figure out, this is something akin to a ‘board game’ played in a field of pits with 90 goat droppings.
Over-all, 400 athletes from 20 countries are taking part including competitors from Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Russia (Altai, Bashkiria, Buryatia, Yakutia etc), Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
The organising committee point out that the “sports are in no way inferior in staginess and popularity of the modern Olympics. Games give powerful impetus to rebirth of original national sports, spiritual self-awareness.”
The Kyrgyzstan embassy also points out that “the near-absence of chemical fertilisers gives Kyrgyz beans an environmental purity that beans from other countries can’t match.”
Perhaps one of the nomad sports least likely to make a transition to the Olympic Games is Kyz-Kuumai – Chasing Girls On Horseback.
One of the sport’s female participants – Dzangil Dairbekova – explains:
“I have competed in girl chasing for over four years now. Girl chasing is trying to avoid getting captured by a boy. If he catches her, he is allowed to kiss her three times but, if the girl escapes, then she can whip him three times. I have whipped boys many times. I love it and it makes me feel very much like a nomad.”
The BBC report on the World Nomad Games is on YouTube.