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Clip Clop, Click Click: First To Worst At The World Nomad Games

What is it like to photograph Central Asia's biggest sporting event? Our photographer shares the view from the media pack. From first to worst, these were the standout details from the 2016 games.


The Kyrgyz: Friendly, fun, and proud of their country. From the snotty-nosed kid on horseback to the elderly cab driver, the locals seemed delighted to have international visitors, and it was rare that a friendly greeting slid into a sales pitch. Thanks, locals, you were awesome.  
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The Kyrgyz: Friendly, fun, and proud of their country. From the snotty-nosed kid on horseback to the elderly cab driver, the locals seemed delighted to have international visitors, and it was rare that a friendly greeting slid into a sales pitch. Thanks, locals, you were awesome.
 

The Taigan racing dogs: They’ll tolerate a pet or two, but with their lean, leggy figures and perfectly curled tail, they’re a class above, and will let you know it. This Kyrgyz dog is bred for hunting but has the delicate movements of a true lady.
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The Taigan racing dogs: They’ll tolerate a pet or two, but with their lean, leggy figures and perfectly curled tail, they’re a class above, and will let you know it. This Kyrgyz dog is bred for hunting but has the delicate movements of a true lady.

The venues: A Sound Of Music valley, with mountains all around and a stream running through. The Kyrchyn Gorge may be the most beautiful international sporting venue in the world. Our attention was sometimes split between sporting events and the epic weather sweeping through the mountains above. 
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The venues: A Sound Of Music valley, with mountains all around and a stream running through. The Kyrchyn Gorge may be the most beautiful international sporting venue in the world. Our attention was sometimes split between sporting events and the epic weather sweeping through the mountains above. 

The clothes. Almost everyone, from the old and wise to the young and beautiful got into their traditional finery. Girls became goddesses and were (especially when you promised to DM them the photo on Instagram) ever gracious with us photographers. 
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The clothes. Almost everyone, from the old and wise to the young and beautiful got into their traditional finery. Girls became goddesses and were (especially when you promised to DM them the photo on Instagram) ever gracious with us photographers. 

The athletes: Some events were more serious than others, but for most athletes the games were as much about the experience as the competition. This Indian mas wrestler asked for a selfie with locals and found himself in a situation that only a couple of shots of vodka could get him out of. Well played, sir.  
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The athletes: Some events were more serious than others, but for most athletes the games were as much about the experience as the competition. This Indian mas wrestler asked for a selfie with locals and found himself in a situation that only a couple of shots of vodka could get him out of. Well played, sir.
 

The Turkmen horse-riders: Whenever they entered the stadium, there was a ripple of approval from the crowd. Apparently, Turkmen are known as the best riders in Central Asia. When this kid threw out his arms Titanic-style, the roar from the crowd filled the valley.
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The Turkmen horse-riders: Whenever they entered the stadium, there was a ripple of approval from the crowd. Apparently, Turkmen are known as the best riders in Central Asia. When this kid threw out his arms Titanic-style, the roar from the crowd filled the valley.

The birds: Eagles were as common as seagulls at this event. We even saw one chilling between the humps of a camel. Despite their merciless appearance, there is a genuine bond between the birds and their handlers. This teenage handler had just walked over to his distressed eagle to put cheek against beak and calm him down.  
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The birds: Eagles were as common as seagulls at this event. We even saw one chilling between the humps of a camel. Despite their merciless appearance, there is a genuine bond between the birds and their handlers. This teenage handler had just walked over to his distressed eagle to put cheek against beak and calm him down.
 

The hats: Kyrgyz hats on sale at the games were not the answer for those trying to protect big, pink noses from the sun. We were told the cut peak of the hats is to allow rainwater to drain out.
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The hats: Kyrgyz hats on sale at the games were not the answer for those trying to protect big, pink noses from the sun. We were told the cut peak of the hats is to allow rainwater to drain out.

Goodie bags: Inside these thousands of fancy bags are fancy boxes. Inside the fancy boxes, a single key fob rests on a bed of foam rubber. When your event is under fire for its cost, it’s probably not a good idea to hand out piles of expensive trash.
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Goodie bags: Inside these thousands of fancy bags are fancy boxes. Inside the fancy boxes, a single key fob rests on a bed of foam rubber. When your event is under fire for its cost, it’s probably not a good idea to hand out piles of expensive trash.

Drones: We at RFE/RL love drone shots as much as the next visual team, but it’s plain bad manners to fly near people. The meditative sport of archery was played out through the howl of three drones. Video people: If you want to film from a couple of meters above the ground, bring a ladder.  
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Drones: We at RFE/RL love drone shots as much as the next visual team, but it’s plain bad manners to fly near people. The meditative sport of archery was played out through the howl of three drones. Video people: If you want to film from a couple of meters above the ground, bring a ladder.
 

Police: These guys had the answer to all our questions. Unfortunately, it was always “nyet.” Media accreditation was apparently given out to everyone who asked (the event had more than 300 registered journalists), meaning the press badges had no currency with the cops. The organizers need to be more selective in handing out accreditation or be sure the police make allowances for stressed-out photographers. The last time I had to jump up and down to see over a crowd was 1998.
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Police: These guys had the answer to all our questions. Unfortunately, it was always “nyet.” Media accreditation was apparently given out to everyone who asked (the event had more than 300 registered journalists), meaning the press badges had no currency with the cops. The organizers need to be more selective in handing out accreditation or be sure the police make allowances for stressed-out photographers. The last time I had to jump up and down to see over a crowd was 1998.

The organization: Chaos reigned, especially in the mountain venue. Schedules changed daily, things rarely ran on time and no one really knew what was going on. With an hourlong drive between venues, and little in the way of transport, we saw journalists running along the road flagging down local cars, and one hapless photographer standing in an empty field, pulling the schedule out of his pocket to reread one more time.   
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The organization: Chaos reigned, especially in the mountain venue. Schedules changed daily, things rarely ran on time and no one really knew what was going on. With an hourlong drive between venues, and little in the way of transport, we saw journalists running along the road flagging down local cars, and one hapless photographer standing in an empty field, pulling the schedule out of his pocket to reread one more time. 
 

This was supposed to be a Top 10 list, but the good of this tournament far outweighed the bad and we ran over. Kyrgyzstan was at its absolute best for this event. As journalists ride off into the sunset, they will leave sun-scorched and exhausted but looking forward to seeing if Turkey can put on as good a show as Kyrgyzstan did when it hosts the games in 2018.     
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This was supposed to be a Top 10 list, but the good of this tournament far outweighed the bad and we ran over. Kyrgyzstan was at its absolute best for this event. As journalists ride off into the sunset, they will leave sun-scorched and exhausted but looking forward to seeing if Turkey can put on as good a show as Kyrgyzstan did when it hosts the games in 2018.   
 

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