Presidential wrestling in UB

Shouldn’t all presidential inauguration celebrations include a wrestling competition?

Last Thursday Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj was sworn in as Mongolia’s new President. Along with a military parade in Ulan Bator’s Sukhbaatar Square opposite Parliament, there was a concert staged at the Cultural Palace.

But sports fans in Mongolia were not disappointed. A wrestling competition to mark the occasion was also held on Friday. Yep, Friday Night Wrestling in Ulan Bator.

wrestling palace.jpg

Like many buildings in the capital, the circular exterior of the Wrestling Palace reflects the traditional Mongolian Ger. But, on the inside, its wrestling arena stands beneath a high dome and is surrounded by several tiers of seating.

It’s a sweaty cauldron for warrior wrestlers and spectators alike.

Wrestling competition during 2009 Presidential Inauguration Celebrations in Mongolia from Guy Degen on Vimeo.

My colleagues and I bought tickets for 6000 MNT (tugrug) a piece – around 3 euro each. There’s no allocated seating and we found ourselves looking for seats among wrestlers and their trainers.

You kind of politely step out of the way for these lads. They’re huge. A large arm swept me aside while I was filming on a landing.

I’ve since learnt that many players in Mongolia’s Rugby team are drawn from the ranks of wrestlers. Looking closely at the ear of the wrestler in the opening shot of the video above, you can clearly see he sports the cauliflower ears of a forward. Whether that’s from packing down in a scrum or from wrestling I can’t tell you.

Wrestling is steeped in Mongolian culture and tradition. Along with archery and horse riding it’s one of three so called "manly sports".

Next month these sports will feature at the Naadam Festival in Ulanbaatar  – the biggest festival in Mongolia.