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Skateboarding in Mongolia

Skateboarding In Mongolia

Let’s start our post on skateboarding in Mongolia with a photo …

Beatles Statue Ulaanbaatar Mongolia. This is a preferred location for skateboarding in Mongolia

The Beatles Statue in Ulaanbaatar is in the shape of an apple; this is a handshake to the record company Apple Records founded by the Beatles in 1968 as a division of Apple Corps Ltd. It was initially intended as a creative outlet for the Beatles, both as a group and individually. The Beatles are cast in bronze on the south side of the statue –  John, Paul (barefooted in tribute to the Abbey Road album cover), George and Ringo.

As a visitor, it might seem slightly incongruous to see a Beatles statue in the middle of Ulaanbaatar. However, on the opposite side of the road to the State Department Store is an open space, known as ‘Beatles Square’ after the bronze bas-relief monument. The area is also known locally as Fountain Park or Square.

The 2008 construction was funded privately by members of the public and far from just being a statue dedicated to the Fab Four, this statue, created by Mongolian sculptor Den Barsboldt, commemorates the transition of Mongolia from a Soviet satellite to a democracy in 1990.

One of the avenues that brought the ideals of democracy and independence into Mongolia was rock music. Although illegal, in the late 1980s, the youth of Ulaanbaatar gathered in hidden corners and back staircases trying to connect with Radio Luxembourg and imitating their western idols and the freedoms they inspired.  To the community and individuals that funded the Beatles Statue, the statue represents Mongolia being more than just the stereotype of nomads, horses and Chinggis Khan, but a country with a rich urban culture that has been around since before independence even if it was suppressed.

 

Beatles Statue Ulaanbaatar. This is a preferred location for skateboarding in Mongolia

The north side of the Beatles Statue has a depiction of a young man sitting on a set of steps, playing a guitar. This north side pays tribute to the Mongolian youths who grew up in the surrounding soviet style apartment blocks during the end of the Communist era daring to listen to and take inspiration from the Beatles and other international artists.

And now when you walk past Beatles Square, you may see members of the Mongolian “Uukhai” Skateboarding Association using the urban space. Uukhai was the battle-cry of the Mongol warriors. It now represents a different battle, one of the youth and creative classes of Mongolia against the toll of the endemic corruption found throughout the country.

Uukhai is a fluid organisation. As well as a group of friends wanting to skate it is also a Mongolian registered NGO established in 2013 providing skateboards to youths in the city that cannot afford them. It also represents freedom against pressures from a traditional society for the first young generation to come of age in a democratic Mongolia. Just as rock music did for those wanting democracy in the late 1980s, skateboarding is one way in which young Mongolians are exploring new modes of self-expression.

Uukhai continues to carve out its identity – fighting against misunderstanding from the more traditional elements in Mongolia’s society – and is working hard to legitimise skateboarding in Mongolia. This includes running their first Uukhai Games in 2020 to celebrate their 7th anniversary – open to all from beginners to more experienced skaters as well as those with scooters and other boards such as longboards and even fingerboards. With the inclusion of skateboarding in the Tokyo Olympics it could be that Monglia will one year be able to enter their own skateboarding representative and Uukhai is working towards funding an indoor skate park to help prepare future Olympic athletes. For now, you will find the skaters outside the  National History Museum, Builders Square and the area between the Beatles Statue and the Circus.

Skateboarding in Mongolia - Uukhai NGO

Image: Uukhai Skateboarding NGO

If you’re interested in experiencing Ulaanbaatar, we include a free, informal and relaxed city walking tour for each trip we run. Alternatively, we offer our Urban Explorer experience as part of our series of one day trips in which we can include viisting members of the Uuhai Mongolian skateboarding crew. Our one day experiences are designed to encourage you to ditch the guidebook and the recommended highlights and instead  get closer to experiencing daily life through a more local perspective.

Jess @ Eternal Landscapes

 

 

Jessica Brooks
Jessica Brooks
I’m Jess Brooks. I am the founder of Eternal Landscapes Mongolia - a registered Mongolian business and social travel enterprise that focuses on providing travellers with a real 21st Century insight into Mongolia. I have been based in Mongolia since 2006 and together with my beloved Mongolian team, we focus on tourism that makes a positive difference. I'm also a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society - awarded for my work in Mongolia and a published guidebook author - having worked together with World Adventure Guides to produce a digital interactive guide to Mongolia. http://www.jessbrooks.co.uk/
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