National Naadam Festival in Mongolia
THE NAADAM FESTIVAL
The Naadam Festival (July 11-15) is the most important and biggest event and the holiday of all Mongolians. This Nomads festival event includes sports competitions of Wrestling, Horse racing and Archery as called "Three manly games". All over the countryside, small local Naadams are celebrated
The main festival is held in the capital Ulaanbaatar, although other provinces and soums across Mongolia have their own, smaller scale Naadam celebrations.
It begins with an elaborately produced Opening Ceremony featuring dancers, athletes, horse riders, and musicians. After the ceremony, the competitions begin. Despite the name, women participate in the archery and horse-racing games, but not in Mongolian wrestling. Another competition of traditional ankle bone shooting became now one of the most interesting parts of the festival.
512 or 1024 wrestlers meet in a single-elimination tournament that lasts nine or ten rounds. Mongolian traditional wrestling is an untimed competition in which wrestlers lose if they touch the ground. Wrestlers wear two-piece costumes consisting of a tight shoulder vest (zodog) and shorts (shuudag). Each wrestler has a second called a zasuul. The zasuul sings a song of praise for the winning wrestler. The champion who won the first time is called arslan, "lion".
Mongolian horse racing as featured in Naadam is a cross-country event, with races 15-30 km long. The riders are children, with the oldest being 10 years old and the youngest only 4. After the races, the top five horses in each class earn the title of "airgiin tav" and the top three are given gold, silver, and bronze medals.
360 targets are put up for the archery competition. In this competition, both men and women participate; men fire 40 arrows from 75 meters away while women fire 20 arrows from 60 meters away. The winners of the contest are granted the titles of "National marksman" and "National markswoman".