• SumoMe

The Mongolian naadam festival is an annual festival that dates back centuries, even before Genghis Khan, and is now held on July 11-13th in order to commemorate the 1921 Mongolian revolution which resulted in the formation of the Mongolian People’s Republic.  Naadam, which literally means “games,” is a three day exhibition of “manly games” which include wrestling, horse racing, and archery. The naadam begins with an elaborate festival similar to the opening of the olympic games, and afterwards the wrestling tournament begins.

Depending on the size of that year’s naadam, either 1024 or 512 wrestlers enter the tournament and wrestle in a single elimination bracket. The bouts are not timed, and continue until one wrestler touches the ground with any part of their body other than their hands or feet. The winner is given the title of the “State Titan.” That rules. The current State Titan can choose his opponents to start, which weeds out the less-experienced wrestlers to start, and ensures a well-fought final round.

The next event is the horse races, and unlike horse races in the Western world, the naadam races are cross country style races, anywhere from 10 to 17 miles long depending on the age of the horse. There are around 1,000 horses in a naadam race, and the top 5 horses are recognized (but only the top 3 get medals). The horse that finishes last is given a bayan khodood (full stomach) in an attempt to improve the horse for next year. The horse races are more about showing off the skill of the horse than the skill of the jockey, which is a nice focus.

The last event is archery, and this is the only event women are allowed to participate in. Mongolian archery consists of multiple targets on a wall, rather than olympic-style archery which is typically a single target with concentric circles. To play, there are 10 man/woman mixed teams and each team has to hit 33 targets on the wall to win. The men shoot from 75 meters, and the women shoot from 65 meters. The winning team is given the title “national marksman/woman.”

The naadam festival is a really awesome event, and I would love to see it in person. This festival celebrates manliness in sport, and that’s a tradition worth continuing.

What’s your favorite part of the naadam festival? Tell us in the comments.