ULAN BATOR, July 11 (Xinhua) -- Mongolia's "Three Games of Men" or national holiday of Naadam kicks off at the national sports stadium here on Thursday, with an elaborate introduction ceremony featuring dancers, singers and musicians.
The Naadam Festival, which is on UNESCO's intangible cultural heritage list, is an official holiday celebrated every year from July 11 to 15 across the nomadic country.
The festival includes three traditional sports in the country, namely horse racing, archery and wrestling.
"Deriving from the name of "the three games of men," it is an ancient tradition of determining the intelligence, power and values of Mongolian men through wrestling, horse racing and archery. Mongolians, based on these three skills of men, wrote their history, fostered their cultural heritage and founded their nation," Mongolian President Khaltmaa Battulga said at the opening ceremony of the festival.
Horse racing is classified into six categories: azarga (stallion- they race 22 km), ikh nas (6-year old and above horse - 25 km), soyolon (5-year old horse - 22 km), hyazaalan (4-year old horse - 17 km), shudlen (3-year old horse - 15 km), and daaga (2 year-old horse -11 km).
There are no special tracks, which makes Mongolian horse racing unique.
More than 200 horses are participating in each six categories of horse racing of this year's Naadam, according to the organizing committee of the national holiday.
By law, the minimum age of child jockeys is seven years of age.
The winner is honored with a cup of fermented milk of mares (airag) which he drinks and sprinkles on the head and croup of his horse. After the races, a singer extols the best riders and their horses.
Wrestling is main spectacle of the festival; there are no limits of time, age and weight.
Mongolians respect traditional wrestlers very much. When a male child is born, Mongolians wish for him to become a wrestler.
A total of 512 wrestlers are competing this year. Only men are allowed to participate. The main difference between Mongolian traditional wrestling and international free wrestling is that the weight of wrestlers is not taken into consideration.
When a wrestler touches the ground with any part of his body other than his feet and arms, he is considered to be defeated.
Archery is regarded as an advanced form of mental and physical training in Mongolia.
A total of 540 archers are competing in three categories, namely Khakh, Buriat and Uriankhai.
The styles of archery have some differences in the bows and arrows used, and the distance of targets (30-70 meters).