High hopes in Kyrgyzstan for upcoming World Nomad Games

By Kanat Altynbayev


The Kazakh and US teams (blue and red, respectively) clash in kok-boru (buzkashi) at the 2nd World Nomad Games near Lake Issyk-Kul, Kyrgyzstan, in September 2016. [World Nomad Games official site]

BISHKEK -- Kyrgyz authorities are working hard to prepare for the 3rd World Nomad Games, which are scheduled for September 2-8 in the Kyrchyn Gorge on the shore of Lake Issyk-Kul.

The games are a national project of Kyrgyzstan, featuring the ethnic sports of Central Asian nomadic peoples and open to countries from all around the world.

The previous games took place in September 2016 at the same site, drawing representatives from 62 countries.

For example, teams from Kazakhstan and the United States competed in the horseback sport of kok-boru (buzkashi) during the 2016 games. Two teams try to score goals against each other, using a goat carcass as the "ball". In recent years, some teams have used a statue or mould rather than a carcass.


The sprawling Ethnic Town of the 2nd World Nomad Games can be seen near Lake Issyk-Kul in Kyrgyzstan in September 2016. [World Nomad Games official site]

Athletes from 80 countries and volunteers from 15 countries are expected to participate this year, Soyuzbek Nadyrbekov, one of the co-ordinators of the World Nomad Games, told Caravanserai.

The first iteration of the games occurred in 2014.


Organisers of the games have studied its previous iterations and decided to substantially increase their size and the space needed, said Altynbek Maksutov, a Bishkek film director, according to

The number of yurts for the game will rise to 1,000, from an originally planned 400. Up to 100 events and contests will take place each day, he said.

An "ethnic house" will accommodate foreign delegations, and a special bazaar will sell locally made arts and crafts. The parking lot will occupy 40 hectares, an expansion as compared to previous years, according to Maksutov.

The 3rd World Nomad Games are supposed to harken back to the 8th and 9th centuries CE, during the existence of the Kyrgyz Khaganate.

The organisers carefully designed the costumes for the participants to convey the khaganate's era accurately.

"In the 9th century, the Kyrgyz khaganate reached its peak," said Maksutov, according to "It is considered the golden age of nomads. At the opening of the ethnic town in Kyrchyn, [we will] show the history of Kyrgyzstan."

The games will have 1,200 participants, he said.

Fittingly, during the construction of the VIP stand, archaeologists found the remains of a warrior from the 4th or 5th century BCE, according to The presidents of participating countries will watch the games from that stand.

Attracting visitors

The World Nomad Games are a profitable project for Kyrgyzstan, Iskender Sharsheyev, an economist and the director of Global Technology Solutions in Bishkek, told Caravanserai.

"The last games [in 2016], according to official data, were attended by about 45,000 people -- that indirectly brought $157 million [10.8 billion KGS] into the country. This year, about 60,000 visitors are expected -- that's probably $200 million [13.8 billion KGS] in indirect income," Sharsheyev said.

The event also bolsters Kyrgyzstan's image abroad, he said. After the previous games in 2016, many residents from Middle Eastern countries learned more about Kyrgyzstan, which led to an increase in tourists from that region.

"[Arabs] like hunting with falcons and equestrian competitions," he said. "The increase in the flow of visitors leads to the conclusion that the Nomad Games are of great significance, both for [our] economy and for the cultural development of the country," he said.

The World Nomad Games should become the equivalent of the Olympics for countries with a nomadic culture and the foundation for a union of civilisations of Turkic-language countries, he added.

"This is a good chance to see contests in 37 nomadic sports," Rusan Akmatov, a Kazakh volunteer for the coming games, told Caravanserai. "I'm convinced that this year's games will be bigger [than ever] -- the numbers speak for themselves. There will be, as there always is, a flood of emotions and impressions."

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