Photo Essays | Society | East Asia

The Naadam Festival: Mongolia’s Games

This showcase of Mongolian culture has been celebrated for hundred of years.

Peter Bittner
The Naadam Festival: Mongolia’s Games

A parachutist flies into the Central Stadium for the Naadam Opening Ceremony on Monday, July 11.

Credit: Peter Bittner
The Naadam Festival: Mongolia’s Games

Actors dressed as Mongolian soldiers move a symbolic “ger,” or yurt, across the field as part of the opening ceremony.

Credit: Peter Bittner
The Naadam Festival: Mongolia’s Games

A drummer on a float poses for the crowd as he makes the rounds on the periphery of the stadium.

Credit: Peter Bittner
The Naadam Festival: Mongolia’s Games

A Mongolian actress, awaiting her team’s part in the dramatic opening ceremony performance, poses for the camera.

Credit: Peter Bittner
The Naadam Festival: Mongolia’s Games

Flag-bearers charge across the field as a balloon “rocket ship” is launched into the air to commemorate the 1981 USSR voyage which took the first Mongolian into space.

Credit: Peter Bittner
The Naadam Festival: Mongolia’s Games

Mongolian soldiers march around the stadium as a boy, right, pokes a girl with an umbrella.

Credit: Peter Bittner
The Naadam Festival: Mongolia’s Games

Wrestlers take the field in traditional garb as part of the opening ceremony.

Credit: Peter Bittner
The Naadam Festival: Mongolia’s Games

A man hangs from a bar as he’s timed, hoping to earn the money taped to it–part of a carnival game at Central Stadium.

Credit: Peter Bittner
The Naadam Festival: Mongolia’s Games

A deel-wearing man points a paintball gun at a target after the opening ceremony.

Credit: Peter Bittner
The Naadam Festival: Mongolia’s Games

Archers fire their first shots down-range in the beginning of the national archery contest.

Credit: Peter Bittner
The Naadam Festival: Mongolia’s Games

Judges cheer on the archer with song and dance after he successful shot the target.

Credit: Peter Bittner
The Naadam Festival: Mongolia’s Games

Judges in the sand-pit chat wearing traditional “deels.”

Credit: Peter Bittner
The Naadam Festival: Mongolia’s Games

Naadam racers charge toward the finish line as a judge monitors.

Credit: Peter Bittner
The Naadam Festival: Mongolia’s Games

Onlookers await the results of the “older horse” category race.

Credit: Peter Bittner
The Naadam Festival: Mongolia’s Games

A racer readies to head home after completing the many-kilometer race.

Credit: Peter Bittner

From July 10-13, Mongolia celebrated the annual Naadam festival. The festivities consist of a number of national ceremonies, concerts, and, most notably, sporting competitions—including those for the “three manly sports” of wrestling, horseracing, and archery. Many other side events, such as shegai, a game involving flicking sheep anklebones, and a variety of carnival games are also popular on the holiday.

The Naadam games have been celebrated for centuries by the nation’s nomads and represent Mongolia’s living cultural legacy of nomadic pastoralism. Today, the festival is a major tourism draw which attracts thousands of foreigners each year to witness the spectacle.