On July 12, the Mongolian National Naadam Festival, which has been by Mongolians for centuries, concluded with an incredible cultural performances and fierce competitions among wrestlers, archers, and horse racers. Thousands of people attended this year’s Naadam opening, including foreign tourists. This year’s opening ceremony focused on remembrance of history, culture, and tradition, which won audiences favor.
During the opening ceremony, performances depicting the history of the Khunnu Empire, ancestor of Mongolians, and the start of the Great Mongol Empire were presented, unlike previous years, which largely composed of folk singing, dancing and horse-head fiddle performances.
Composer N.Naranbaatar, who directed the opening ceremonies of Naadam for the last two years stated that the main goal of this year’s opening ceremony was to “help Mongolians remember what the most valuable things are for the nation, where we come from, and think about how we reserve our valuable history, culture, and traditions.” The composer noted that he had to work with a smaller budget and said more could be done if the budget is increased.
N.Naranbaatar added that the Naadam opening ceremony usually takes place in daytime, and suggested that more special effects and show techniques could be used if it were to take place at nighttime.
MIXED-BREED HORSES BANNED FROM NAADAM RACES
Head of Naadam Organizing Commission (NOC) and Deputy Prime Minister U.Khurelsukh made a decision to not allow mixed-breed horses in this year’s races on July 5. Under a new regulation made by the NOC to distinguish Mongolian and mixedbreed horses, the NOC put a limit on horse height.
The regulation allowed only stallions that are no taller than 140 centimeters to take part in races. The height limit for ikh nas (horse over the age of five) was set at 141 centimeters; height of soyolon (five-year-old horse) at 140 centimeters; height of khyzaalan at 137 centimeters; height for shudlen (three-year-old horse) at 132 centimeters; and the height limit for daaga (two-year-old horse) was set at 127 centimeters.
Members of the Horse Racing Commission for Naadam (HRC) measured the height of all horses taking part in races, and disqualified horses that exceeded the specified height limit. Seventy-four out of 272 registered stallions were disqualified from races; 21 out of 307 ikh nas; 128 from 256 soyolon; 177 out of 302 khyzaalans; 195 out of 254 shudlen; and 211 from 282 daaga were disqualified because of their height.
Secretary of the HRC Ts.Galbadrakh said that the limits on heights were set through a consultation between the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Light Industry, the Veterinary and Animal Breeding Agency, and researchers from the Institute of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Genetic Resources Center.
Some horse trainers protested the NOC’s new regulation and demanded the NOC to reconsider the limits. In response to the protest, Head of the NOC U.Khurelsukh pointed out that a previous Naadam Organizing Commission already made a regulation to not allow mixed-breed horses in Naadam horse racing, but that the implementation of the regulation was poor. U.Khurelsukh said he was only implementing an existing regulation.
Deputy Minister U.Khurelsukh said that most horse trainers are pleased with the new regulation as it lays down a fair ground on which to compete. He added that the NOC started tightening the implementation of the regulation to not allow mixedbreed horses as researchers in veterinary science believe that the new regulation will be significant in preserving the genetic characteristics of native Mongolian horses.
U.Khurelsukh said that mixed-breed horses are free to race in competitions after July 13, and added that he doesn’t expect many horses to be disqualified from future Naadam races as the rules have been made clear.
NEW CHAMPIONS EMERGE
This year’s wrestling competition will be one that fans will talk about for years to come because all the top ranking wrestlers, including the champions of the 2012, 2014, 2015, and 2016 Naadam wrestling tournaments, were eliminated in fourth and fifth rounds. Four state hawks (fourth highest wrestling title) remained in the semifinal.
State Hawk Ts.Sodnomdorj from Tosontsengel soum of Khuvsgul Province became the champion of this year’s wrestling competition after his decisive win over State Hawk U.Bat-Orshikh from Ulaangom soum of Uvs Province. In the history of Naadam wrestling tournament, four hawks have never remained in the final rounds of Naadam, which gave wrestling fans a rare spectacle.
Another highlight of the event was Olympic gold and silver medalist judoka N.Tuvshinbayar’s brilliant performance in traditional wrestling. He gained the State Elephant by defeating emerging State Hawk O.Khangai in the seventh round.
This year’s champion Ts.Sodnomdorj became a state hawk in 2011 by winning six rounds, and he was not able to rank up to a state elephant or state lion until this year. U.Bat-Orshikh was also in the same boat as he was not able to go more than six rounds since he attained his state hawk title in 2009.
A lot of fans supported the two experienced wrestlers since the sixth round, hoping they would end up in the finals, and the two state hawks did not disappoint fans. In the final match, U.Bat-Orshikh was more confident than his rival as he previously won against Ts.Sodnomdorj twice in preceding Naadam wrestling tournaments. U.Bat-Orshikh attacked Ts.Sodnomdorj first, but Ts.Sodnomdorj reacted with a quick counter attack and seized the match.
Mongolians believe that if a wrestler and stallion from the same province become victories in the Naadam’s competitions, the province is declared the winner of that year’s Naadam. It is very rarely for a wrestler and stallion from the same province to win Naadam, but Khuvsgul Province was lucky this year as Ts.Sodnomdorj became the champion of the wrestling completion and the gray stallion trained by horse trainer T.Boldbaatar of Murun soum of Khuvsgul Province won first place in the stallion race, which is considered to be the most important horse race of Naadam.
ZAVKHAN AND DORNOD CLAIM ARCHERY TITLES
The archery competition for this year’s Naadam was held in much the same manner as previous years. B.Yondon from Durvuljin soum of Zavkhan Province became the champion of the men’s competition by hitting 37 out of 40 targets, and B.Barchimeg from Dashbalbar soum of Dornod Province became the champion of the women’s competition by hitting 34 targest out of 40.
FEWER FOOD POISONING COMPLAINTS MADE
The government spent 2.9 billion MNT last year for organizing Naadam, but this year’s budget was cut to 2.7 billion MNT. This year’s opening ceremony alone cost 600 million MNT. D.Tsend-Ayush, an official of the Ulaanbaatar Specialized Inspection Agency (USIA), pointed out that there have been very few complaints regarding food poisoning, compared to last year’s Naadam as the Office of Ulaanbaatar’s Mayor handed out food distribution permits to businesses only (previous Naadams allowed individuals to sell food and drinks), and workers from laboratories of the USIA have worked at the Central Stadium and Khui Doloon Khudag horse racing field to ensure food quality.