Naadam without spectators is the end of the history of traditional games

The World Ethnosport as a leading international organization bringing together experts on traditional sports and games, collaborating with UNESCO, addresses the President of Mongolia and the Director-General of UNESCO to express deep concern about the Naadam festival without spectators and declares the inadmissibility of such measures that destroy the nature of public festivals, initially open to all.

The decision of the Mongolian authorities to conduct Naadam behind closed regime in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic is contrary to the understanding of the role of traditional sports and games in modern society, they are part of a festive culture, therefore, sealing competitions is unacceptable, it makes sense of this ancient rite of male initiation, when young men demonstrate the connection with the legacy of ancestors, expressed in mastering the skills of the main Mongols Three Games of Men (Eryn Gurban Naadam).

Obviously, the holding of traditional games as the cultural core of the Naadam festival without spectators is aimed at identifying the winners in each tournament of the Three Games of Men 2020, but this does not correspond to the communitarian spirit of the rite, in which it is more important not to win specific men, but to celebrate collective action, unity of all men and women of Mongolia, marked by the inclusion in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List in 2010. Therefore, a direct extrapolation of sports rules to traditional games is unacceptable, this event is not for athletes, but for spectators.

Filled with sincere respect and paying tribute to the culture of Mongolia and the choice of the countries participating in the UNESCO ICH Convention, we call to safeguarding of traditions so that games without spectators do not begin the end of the history of traditional games. It is better to cancel events of traditional culture than to turn them into a postmodern phantom. So this year, the main Russian traditional games of Atmanov\’s Kulachki or Scottish Traditional Highland Games were canceled. Postponing the date for more than a few months, like the Kirkpinar oil wrestling festival in Turkey, or for a whole year, like the Games of the XXXII 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, also leads to the destruction of tradition.

Our ongoing monitoring of the situation with overcoming the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic is aimed at finding solutions to ensure the SDGs of the 2030 Agenda in the face of toxic challenges of our time. We call for cooperation of the organization of Mongolia on the safeguarding of traditional sports and games within the framework of the UNESCO ICH Convention and express confidence that we will be able to find optimal solutions to humanitarian problems under the auspices of UNESCO.