From July 11th thru 13th the city of UB shuts down for the annual celebration of the “Three manly sports”. These include Archery, Horse racing, and wrestling. We went out to see a little bit of all of these, plus the 4th not so manly sport of anklebone shooting. The festival starts on Friday morning with a parade thru the streets where horses and people dressed in traditional costumes march from the main square down to the main stadium. The opening ceremonies were incredible. They featured fireworks, skydivers, acrobats on horses, shamanic dancing and speeches from the Mongolian government. I’d seen Mongolian wrestling before, so after the main ceremony we headed over to the archery stadium. It was impressive to watch the archers in their traditional costumes, but I wasn’t as impressed with the skill. The arrows tended to wobble in flight, and seemed very unbalanced. Hitting targets seemed to me to be more luck than any real skill.
The next day we went to watch the finals of a horse race. The horses race up to 26k, and usually have 4 or 5 year old children as their jockeys. This is done to insure the winner is the best horse, and not the best jockey. The event seemed to be a lot of sitting around, until all at once the crowd started to get excited. We pushed ourselves to the front of the crowd and got to see the first horses arrive. Some of them were barely walking, and a few even died at the finish line. There were two or three horses that arrived without their riders. Apparently one or two children jockeys die every year during the races from falling off of their speeding animals.
That Saturday night we went out on a Hash pub crawl. The evening was a blast, and we accidentally saw the closing ceremony parade. We were crawling from one bar to another when suddenly the streets were filled with the costumed riders carrying the ceremonial horse tails and flags back to the statehouse for another year of storage. It was a great way to end the weekend!