What do you know about Mongolia and the Olympics?
Did you know that Mongolia has a National Olympic Committee? Those who have been to Ulaanbaatar may have passed it by at Olympic House on Chinggis Avenue without realising.
Did you know that Mongolia first participated at the Olympic Games in 1964? Since then, it has sent athletes to compete in all but one of the summer games (Mongolia was part of the boycott of the 1984 Summer Olympics led by the Soviet Union). Also, Mongolia first competed at the Summer Paralympic Games in 2000, and has competed in every edition of the Summer Paralympics.
Did you know that Mongolia won their first gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics (Judo, men’s half heavyweight (100kg) won by Naidangiin Tüvshinbayar). It then went and won a second (in the bantamweight boxing). They then also took a third gold at the 2008 Paralympics when Baatarjav Dambadondog won the men’s archery recurve standing competition. On the occasion of the wins, Mongolians took to the streets of UB in instantaneous celebration – those clever entrepreneurial kids, who always know exactly what to sell when were out selling the Mongolian flag. The city erupted in a flood of vodka toasts, the national anthem, blaring car horns, and an explosion of fireworks – the nation’s flag flying from hands, vehicles and the tallest buildings. Main street junctions came to a complete standstill – anyone who needed to get anywhere gave up and stayed and celebrated instead.
Pierre de Courbertin revived the Olympics – he formed the IOC (the International Olympic Committee) in 1894 and Athens hosted the first modern Olympic games in 1896. De Courbertin believed that ‘the important thing in life is not to triumph, but to compete’ – the Olympic motto is ‘Citius, Altius, Fortius’ – ‘Faster, Higher, Stronger’ challenging each competitor into being the best they can be and to me that is certainly the attitude with which the Mongolian team attend the Olympics.
Back in 2012, we finished a tour on the day of the London Olympics closing ceremony. In 2012, Mongolia didn’t win a gold but they did take home their best ever medal tally of 5. During our farewell dinner, one of our clients asked Turuu, co-founder of Eternal Landscapes, about the Mongolian medal tally of 5 but with gold remaining elusive. He replied, in his own self-taught version of the English language, (helped in confidence by a couple of large draft Chinggis beers) ‘we are very happy. We are a country of about 3.2 million people and 5 medals are good. The colour is not important – it’s being in the Olympics’ (It’s not the exact quote but then I had also had a couple of large draft Chinggis beers myself!)
In 2016 43 Mongolian athletes headed to the 2016 Rio Olympics – 26 men and 17 women, across nine different sports including Judo, freestyle wrestling, boxing, track and field athletics (marathon), swimming, weightlifting and recurve archery. 2016 marked Mongolia’s Olympic debut in taekwondo. They won two medals.
And for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Mongolia sent 43 athletes this time representing wrestling, judo, swimming, athletics, archery, shooting, weightlifting, table tennis and boxing. And for the first time ever Mongolia was represented at the Olympic stage in a team sport discipline – the 3×3 women’s basketball team. The 2020 Tokyo Olympics team outfits deserved a medal of their own – designed by Mongolian sisters duo Michel & Amazonka.
‘The Government of Mongolia had announced 2019 as the year for purchasing domestically produced products with an aim of creating a ‘Mongolian’ brand, and to support local factories. In the competition among professional designers to unearth who would tailor the outfits for the Olympic team, the Choigaalaa sisters’ progressive and hot styles won hands down.’ (Olympic Council Of Asia)
Learn more about the sisters in this Forbes article – https://www.forbes.com/sites/breannawilson/2019/08/27/meet-the-sisters-behind-mongolias-hottest–and-most-progressive–fashion-brand-michelamazonka/
For more on Mongolia and the Olympics, see this great photo essay on Mongolian wrestler Mandakhnaran Ganzorig preparing for the 2012 Olympics – https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2012/feb/24/mongolia-olympics-2012-kieran-doherty
Alternatively, for those looking for a different sort of experience or opportunity you can now practise at the буудлага спортын төв клуб in Ulaanbaatar – where members of the Mongolian 2016 Rio Olympic team, O.Gundegmaa and Ts.Monkhzul, have both practised and trained.
With skateboarding being included in the Olympics for the first time, learn more about skateboarding in Mongolia. Or, why not try your hand at archery? Our Mongolia one-day tours/experiences are private, flexible and fluid and designed to get you just that little bit closer to daily life.