CHOLPON-ATA/Kyrgyzstan, Sept. 17 (The Conway Bulletin) – In front of a packed hippodrome in this provincial town of shores of the mountain-ringed Lake Issyk Kul, Kyrgyzstan A beat Kyrgyzstan B to win gold in the main event of Kok-Boru at this inaugural Nomadic Games.
Amid the enthusiastic roars of local Kyrgyz, foreign diplomats cheered on half-heartedly between snipes about graft and the hippodrome’s overloaded portaloos.
While the World Nomadic Games was designed to unite all countries of the Turkic-speaking world, it retained a very local flavour throughout, with the hosts cruising to victory in the medal table — the majority of the competitors were Kyrgyz — and poor planning abounding. None of the presidents of the competing states — Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan — showed up as hoped before the games began.
The Kok-Boru on July 14 was spectacular, however. Exhibition games of Kok-Boru, a polo-like game played with a dried goat carcass, are common at tourist-focussed festivals throughout the country. This one was far more competitive, with the captain of Kyrgyzstan’s A team sporting a battle-inflicted gash across his forehead as he lead his team to victory over the B team.
Russia’s federal Altai Republic and Turkey claimed silver and bronze in the event respectively. Following a reported disagreement over the rules of Kok-Boru — or Kokpar to the Kazakhs — neighbouring Kazakhstan refused to send a team.
Also on Sept. 14, to the chuckles of local spectators, horses belonging to former Prime Minister Omurbek Babanov claimed the bronze and silver medals for the 2.5 km flat race. Babanov’s weakness for stallions is legendary.
He was jettisoned from the government amid rumours he had accepted a racehorse a bribe for securing a foreign investment for a Turkish businessmen in 2013.
This story was first published in issue 200 of the weekly Conway Bulletin on Sept. 17. for more information, please visit www.conway.starbit.co.uk