Naadam is a big, traditional festival that takes place in the midsummer (usually July), with many Mongolian’s getting into the festive spirit to watch their fellows compete in the ‘three games of men’ – wrestling, horse riding and archery. Before it gets down to the business of sporting prowess, the festival kicks off with the colourful pageantry of a parade of athletes, monks and musicians.
A colourful spectacular, the Naadam’s opening ceremony is made up of an elaborate parade that involves a load of local dancers, athletes, soldiers and even monks, all getting into the festival spirit to the traditional, military tunes provided by a horde of musicians in traditional dress. The festival is said to have originated from nomad wedding assemblies, so celebration is top of the agenda – you won’t be able to resist the carnival atmosphere!
Horse racing, archery and wrestling are considered the highest of sports to Mongolians. The horse racing can include up to 1,000 horses stampeding across open grassland with no set track – you’ll find the jockeys are generally children, to test the horse rather the rider. Those competing in the archery competition wear traditional dress and shot with traditional bows. The wrestling competition is fierce – with no weight divisions it is often a David and Goliath style battle. Whilst called the three ‘manly’ sports, women do compete in both the horse racing and archery competitions. Away from the sports there is plenty of food to sample, music to enjoy , people to watch and atmosphere to soak up outside of the arena.
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