While the world’s fair, better known as EXPO 2017, continues throughout the summer in the capital city of Astana and is focused on the future of the energy industry, Kazakhstan is getting ready to host an event of a different kind.
More than 50 archers from 25 countries will make their way to Central Asia’s largest country to compete in the first International Zhamby Atu Tournament, held this weekend from August 11-13.
“These are traditions that have been forgotten for centuries,” Elsiyar Kanagatov, who chairs the government’s Sports and Fitness Committee, said during a press briefing on Monday.
Unlike the world’s fair, which has a global history and dates to the mid-19th century, zhamby atu, a form of archery, is distinctly Central Asian and is perhaps ancient. The game is normally a competition amongst men, and the goal is to knock down a heavy silver disc, called a zhamby, hanging from a thin rope with a bow and arrow. The winner is the person who succeeds with the fewest attempts by his arrow, normally shot while riding on horseback.
“Thanks to the International Association of Turkic Traditional Sports we are holding the tournament for the first time at the international level, and we plan to hold [these] competitions [also] at the national level,” Kanagatov said.
The association, which was founded in 2013 in Astana, includes the Central Asian countries of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan Kyrgyzstan, the Caspian region’s Azerbaijan as well as Hungary. Its aim is to popularize zhamby atu worldwide.
The Audaryspak World Cup will be held following the zhamby atu games, from August 16-18 at the Kazanat race track. Audaryspak is played on horseback between two contenders whose aim is to thrown the opponent off of his horse.
The decision to host international competitions this year in traditional Central Asian sports is no coincidence. Kazakhstan has taken center-stage this summer as its capital city hosts EXPO 2017, which has brought companies and governments together from over 100 different countries, focusing on renewable energy resources and clean energy technologies. The expo opened June 10 and wraps up September 10.
But the push to revive, popularize and internationalizing traditional sports is nothing new for Kazakhstan.
In 2012, the city of Taraz hosted a national tournament focusing on a form of wrestling known as kazakhsha kures, which has been included in UNESCO’s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Taraz annually holds an international tournament, called “Eurasia Barysy,” which has attracted athletes from Poland, Ukraine, Russia, Mongolia, Iran, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and China. In 2014, the world championship, or “Alem Barysy,” was held in Pavlodar.