The annual Naadam Festival has been held over centuries. Originally it was a gathering of the Mongol tribes where the champions of each one would compete in three ‘manly’ events to establish who was the overall champion in each. These were wrestling, horse riding and archery. Ten years ago a fourth event was added, ankle bones (more on this later). Now it is a competition between the nine provinces that make up Mongolia today.
The Naadam Festival proper kicks off in the morning with a lavish opening ceremony involving 2,000 or so participants. This traces the history of Mongolia from early times, concentrating in particular on the uniting of all the tribes and the vast empire established by Genghis Khan which, at one point, stretched from Europe through to China and Vietnam. His grandson Khublai founded the Yung dynasty in China and moved the capital to Bejing. The period following communist control, independence and the subsequent growth of pride in traditional values is celebrated. In 1990 the population was 2 million. Now it has reached 3 million. The finale involves hundreds of youngsters, demonstrating their promise and potential for the future of this ancient yet young country.
Enjoy the scenes. Olympics, eat yer heart out.
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