July 11. We arrived back in Ulaan Baatar last night to see the national Naadam Festival. It began at Sukhbaatar Square, then moved to the National Stadium.
A policeman helping to control the crowd at Sukhbaatar Square on a gray, drizzly day.
A TV personality preparing to report, dressed in an outfit that is unlikely to have kept her warm on this chilly morning.
The ceremonies begin at the impressive Parliament Building on Sukhbaatar Square
where army troops in traditional uniform on horseback assemble, dismount,
climb the Parliament steps,
They ride with the banners to the National Stadium where the competitions are held,
are greeted by dignitaries and celebrities,
parade the banners around the track,
and finally mount them on a platform in the middle of the stadium.
"Through the centuries on the rolling, grassy steppes of inner Asia, a warrior-herder carried a Spirit Banner, called a sulde, constructed by tying strands of hair from his best stallions to the shaft of a spear, just below its blade. Whenever he erected his camp, the warrior planted the Spirit Banner outside the entrance to proclaim his identity and to stand as his perpetual guardian. The Spirit Banner always remained in the open air beneath the Eternal Blue Sky that the Mongols worshiped. As the strands of hair blew and tossed in the nearly constant breeze of the steppe, they captured the power of the wind, the sky, and the sun, and the banner channeled this power from nature to the warrior. The wind in the horsehair inspired the warrior's dreams and encouraged him to pursue his own destiny. The streaming and twisting of the horsehair in the wind beckoned the owner ever onward, luring him away from this spot to seek another, to find better pasture, to explore new opportunities and adventures, to create his own fate in his life in this world. The union between the man and his Spirit Banner grew so intertwined that when he died, the warrior's spirit was said to reside forever in those tufts of horsehair. While the warrior lived, the horsehair banner carried his destiny; in death, it became his soul. The physical body was quickly abandoned to nature, but the soul lived on forever in those tufts of horsehair to inspire future generations."