Cholpon-Ata, Kyrgyzstan

I can’t emphasise how incredibly lucky I am to have been able to attend the 2nd edition of the World Nomad Games.

Founded by Kyrgyzstan as an Olympics-like showcase of traditional culture and sport with an emphasis on nomadic peoples, Kyrgyzstan hosted the inaugural games in 2014, kicking off a two-year cycle with them hosting again this year — just around the time I happened to be in the area. With some infamously unique sports being played in competition that are otherwise rare or difficult to witness, a cultural festival happening simultaneously, previous experience hosting in the same place, and twice the number of participating countries (40 of them — though mysteriously, Canada’s flag was flying despite no representation), this is most likely the largest event Kyrgyzstan has ever hosted, its biggest chance to showcase itself to the world — still modest for an international event, and yet full of potential, promise, and positivity.

The fact that an event like this comes with cheap accommodation and cheap food already makes it a big draw to people in the know — that is, locals, and other tourists in the country whom I grouped up with. What puts it over the top though, in an incredibly admirable decision that truly sticks to the spirit of celebrating culture, is that all of the events (save the ticketed opening and closing ceremonies) were completely free.
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