Diplomatic Security Supports the World Nomad Games in Kyrgyzstan

Tucked between the shores of stunning Lake Issyk-Kul and the snowcapped peaks of the northern Tian Shan Mountains, the mountain nation of the Kyrgyz Republic was gearing up for an international sporting competition like no other –- the Second International World Nomad Games.  While the world’s attention was captured by the international competition of the 2016 Olympic Games this summer, many might not realize this year’s International World Nomad Games attracted teams from 62 countries, over 500 members of the international press, and boasted 23 iconic, traditional nomad sports including horseback riding, wrestling, falconry, and kok boru (a polo like sport using a sheep’s carcass also known as buzkashi).

The Team USA player (left, red uniform) tries to take away the sheep carcass from his opponent during this kok-boru match at the World Nomad Games, September 6, 2016. [AP Photo]

The State Department sponsored many U.S. cultural ambassadors, such as the Native Pride Dancers, a first-ever U.S. kok-boru team of cowboys from Wyoming, for the World Nomad Games. The Games were also attended by numerous Peace Corps volunteers, who participated in various sporting activities, including traditional intellectual, chess-like board games. Historically nomadic nations from Central Asia, the Middle East, and beyond showcased cultural exhibits in the enormous yurt village erected in the jailoo (prairie) nestled amidst the Semenov Mountain Gorge.U.S. Embassy Bishkek also featured their American Corner in a yurt, as well as USAID programs, a full theatrical stage for performances, and cultural engagement throughout the event. Despite some logistical challenges, the games were a huge success. Crowds of spectators warmly welcomed the U.S. cultural envoys on the U.S. pavilion stage.

In the months leading up to the event, the Embassy Bishkek Regional Security Office (RSO) staff traveled tirelessly to the event sites in the Issyk-Kul Lake region to check route safety and hotel security, liaise with host nation police and government officials, and plan security for VIP visitors including South and Central Asian Affairs Deputy Assistant Secretaries of State Angela Aggeler and Dan Rosenblum.

 

One week before the opening ceremony, a U.S. Embassy Bishkek regional security officer (center, wearing plaid shirt) converses with local government officials overseeing the venue for the World Nomad Games, August 28, 2016. [State Department photo]

The August 30 suicide car bomb attack against the Chinese Embassy in Bishkek occurred only four days before the opening ceremony. The attack was several hundred meters from Embassy Bishkek and just days before the kickoff to the World Nomad Games. The blast wave from the explosion shook the chancery and blew out windows up to half a mile away. The embassy had recently moved to a new embassy compound in November 2015 and sustained minimal damage, although shrapnel was scattered across the compound.

Following the attack, RSO Bishkek went into overdrive. RSO’s prior travel to the venue sites built rapport with the Issyk-Kul province governor and the chief of police. Likewise, the entire RSO team frequently met with the local police, even regularly sharing meals with some of them. These gestures of respect laid the foundation for working together on a complicated event like this and enabled both sides to quickly and thoroughly work through what had suddenly become a much more complex security environment.

On the opening day of the World Nomad Games, the RSO (far right, top of bleachers) watches over members of Team USA (center) and Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Angela Aggeler (left, standing), September 5, 2016. [State Department Photo]

As can be expected with any major event, there were large crowds, multiple protective details, traffic jams, lodging issues, and incidents requiring investigative action. It was clear, however, that the thorough event planning had paid off. Save for an American kok-boru player breaking a finger during a fierce match with the Russian team, all went smoothly and according to plan. The State Department was grateful for the opportunity to support this athletic gathering through our security and cultural affairs efforts to bring this amazing platform to a larger international audience.   

About the Author: Dmitriy Bocheko serves as a Special Agent in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security at the U.S. Department of State.

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Falconers show off their golden eagles about to compete in the hunting event of the World Nomad Games, September 4, 2016. (AP Photo)
Posted by Dmitriy Bocheko
November 23, 2016

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