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Ashgabat 2017

Proud Turkmen values, traditions and culture inspire the Ashgabat 2017 Games

Peaceful and fast-developing Turkmenistan welcomes the world to celebrate sports under the themes “Health, Inspiration and Friendship” at the 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games.

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 July, 2017, 11:29am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 July, 2017, 5:28pm

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The Games, taking place from September 17 to 27, will be the first international multi-sport event of this scale ever hosted by Turkmenistan. This year’s competition will see elite athletes from 65 delegations from Asia and Oceania.

Turkmenistan is a country with a proud and ancient history. Its location in Central Asia has made it an historic crossroads for some of the world’s most powerful empires. The Parthians, the Seljuks, and the Khans of Khoresm all based their empires close to the Karakum (“Black Sand”) Desert, while Greece’s famed Alexander the Great conquered the region during his epic campaign in the 4th Century BC, leaving behind a unique legacy.    

Traditionally nomads, today’s Turkmen, which number more than six million, in a country the size of Spain, are descendent from several separate tribes that migrated from the northeast —each speaking a different dialect, and each with its own style of dress. Countless decades in the vast desert have shaped the character of the Turkmen to be both brave and strong. But the Turkmen also have a reputation for gentle hospitality.

Among the most important values for the Turkmen is friendship. That is why they always maintain friendly relations with their neighbours. The Turkmen saying has it that "if your neighbour is happy, you will be happy too."  

Turkmen national art developed through the creativity of the Turkmen people, and their inspiration and imagination have built a rich and varied cultural heritage.

Carpet-weaving is one of the most ancient forms of Turkmen applied art.  In the 1940s, the remains of a 2,500 year old carpet unearthed by archaeologists in Altai affirmed the country’s long history of carpet-weaving. Sumptuously woven in wool, the traditional Turkmen carpet carries distinctive palette of deep reds and symbolic motifs of the various regional tribes. And over the many centuries these unique and beautiful carpets have become objects of great desire today.

Turkmenistan’s national flag, which features carpet designs, illustrates the deep-seated significance of carpets to the Turkmen. The vertical strip features five traditional motifs of Turkmen carpets, representing the five major tribes of the country: Teke, Yomut, Arsary, Chowdur and Saryk.

After independence from the USSR in 1991, Turkmenistan adopted a flag similar to the current design. In 1997, an olive branch was added to symbolise the peace-loving nature of the Turkmen people.

There are two famous Turkmen proverbs: 'Water is a Turkmen's life, a horse is his wings, and a carpet is his soul.'  And 'Unroll your carpet and I shall see what is written in your heart.'  Aside from their resplendent rugs, Turkmen are also celebrated for their legendary Akhal-teke horses.

Horses are a major component of a Turkmen family. The beautiful Akhal-teke breed is the country’s national emblem. The origin of this unique breed is believed to stretch back 3,000 years. Known for their beautiful metallic sheen which shines like gold, the Chinese called the Akhal-teke ‘Heavenly Horses.’

The ancient Greeks, Romans, Chinese and Arabs all knew of this fabled animal. And it was said that Alexander the Great’s favourite horse – Bucephalus – was a noble Akhal-teke stallion.

For thousands of years the animals have been prized for their speed, endurance and intelligence. The President of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, is fond of horse riding and has promoted the Akhal-teke breed by writing a book about the horses.

Berdimuhamedov has served as the President of Turkmenistan since 2007. Re-elected to a third term with 98 per cent of the vote in February this year, he has pledged to improve his people’s welfare.

During the past decade, independent and neutral Turkmenistan has flourished under the current administration. The nation’s leader has set targets for both social and economic modernisation. Over the past ten years, thousands of new factories, schools, hospitals, homes, museums and libraries, and tens of thousands kilometres of paved roads, have been built.

Home to the world's fourth largest natural gas reserves, Turkmenistan has significantly diversified routes of external deliveries of hydrocarbons through the Turkmenistan-China gas pipeline, plus a second gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Iran.

The construction of a mega project, known as the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India natural gas pipeline, or TAPI, was started in 2015. Expected to be completed in 2019, the pipeline will carry 33 billion cubic metres of gas from Turkmenistan through three South Asian countries.  

Since 2012, Turkmenistan has been classified by the World Bank as an upper-middle-income country and it is currently among the world's fastest-growing economies.

Turkmenistan is also building a reputation of a growing sporting country. From September 17 to 27, for the very first time, Turkmenistan will welcome elite athletes and spectators from across Asia and Oceania to join the 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games - the first time this major event will take place in Central Asia.

The exciting themes of the Games, “Health, Inspiration and Friendship”, reflect the nation’s values and the belief that sports, as well as the Olympic Movement, play a significant role in developing friendship, mutual understanding and cooperation between people.

The Ashgabat 2017 Games are set to both inspire people through sport and to welcome all participating countries to Turkmenistan through friendship.  

Martial arts and horse riding have been beloved traditions in Turkmenistan for thousands of years. Meanwhile, the national sport of Turkmenistan, wrestling, has played an important role in Turkmen lives and culture for a very long time. The Turkmen love to compete in all disciplines of martial arts: Muaythai, Sambo, Kurash, Belt Wrestling, Freestyle and Greco-Roman Wrestling, and Taekwondo.

In fact, Turkmenistan boasts 3 Golds, 5 Silvers, 3 Bronzes in previous editions of the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games. Most of the medals came in Kickboxing and Kurash in the last games four years ago, demonstrating the fact that the country has been shaping up to be a force to be reckoned with in a number of sport disciplines.  

In the build-up to the Games, a 500-day horse ride started in May 2016 at the ancient fortress of Nissa, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with 17 riders on Akhal-teke horses running through the five provinces of the country. This unique horse-riding marathon is considered to be a way of paying tribute to Turkmenistan’s unique customs and cultural heritage.

The final leg of this gruelling horse ride will take place in Turkmenistan’s Mary province. The Games' dramatic torch-lighting ceremony will take place in the country’s largest gas field, at Galkynysh. Afterwards, the equestrian team will carry the torch to Ashgabat, at the opening ceremony, scheduled for 17 September.

With the eyes of the world on the city and the country, it will be time for Ashgabat and Turkmenistan to shine.