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Mogi: finally found the daily PDFs. New website is worse to use than previous
MSE Trading Report: Top 20 +2.29%, ALL +1.31%, Turnover ₮37.9 Million Shares
February 15 (MSE) --
Takhico JSC to Distribute ₮128.5 Million in Dividends, ₮108 a Share
February 15 (MSE) "Takhico" JSC's board of directors meeting had held on Feb 03 2016 and decided to distribute dividend of MNT108 per share to shareholders which is total of MNT128,518,164.00. After taxation dividends will be distributed of cash from 1 January 2016.
In 2014, the company distributed dividend of MNT65 per share to shareholders which is total of MNT77,348,895.00.
MSE: ₮10 Billion 28-Week 14.125% Discounted T-Bills on Offer Till 17 February
February 12 (MSE) Buy order of 28 weeks Government bonds with 14.215% annual coupon rate has started through brokerage companies and buy order will end on 17th February.
MSE: ₮54.9 Million 1-Year 14.941%, ₮61 Million 15.75% 3-Years GoM Bonds Sold
February 12 (MSE) On February 8, 2016, 1 year Government retail bonds worth MNT 54.9 million with 14.941% annual interest rate and 3 years government bonds worth MNT 61.0 million with 15.75% annual interest rate traded successfully on primary market at Mongolian Stock Exchange.
Below member brokerage companies participated in the bond trading follows:
1. 1 year Government bond
2. 3 years Government bond
FMG Mongolia Fund lost 2.0% in the 4th Quarter, losing 20.6% for 2015
(FMG Funds) The 4th quarter showed high volatility with local equities trading mostly down. The Mongolian Tugrik was flat due to central bank intervention and the offshore listed companies suffered further losses as global sentiment and commodity prices deteriorated.
Mongolia´s economic pain continued in 2015 with commodity prices heading sharply lower. Despite the negative economic figures coming out of Mongolia a number of major events took place. The Mongolian government and Rio Tinto finally signed an agreement to develop the massive underground mine at Oyu Tolgoi. Later on in the year, lenders signed a $4.4 billion project financing agreement, paving the way for massive investments in the mine. OT is one of the best and largest copper/gold mines in the world and will greatly impact the economic performance of Mongolia in the years to come The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development forecasts Mongolia's economy to grow 3.3% in 2015 while increasing to 5% in 2016.
Depressed assets prices have created attractive opportunities with several companies in the consumer, industrial and mining sector trading below book value. If there are signs of a recovery underway in Mongolia, these assets will be swift to rerate as the market liquidity remains shallow.
FMG Mongolia Fund: -14.12% in January, -20.56% in 2015
February (FMG Funds) --
Historic low ₮2,018.53/USD set February 5, 2016. Reds are rates that set a new low at the time
BoM MNT Rates: Monday, February 15 Close
MNT vs USD (blue), CNY (red) in last 1 year:
MPP boycotts "unnecessary" extraordinary session of parliament
February 15 (news.mn) Today, MP's from the Mongolian People's Party (MPP) failed to attend the non-regular meeting of Parliament. They explained their boycott, saying that "the non-regular meeting was not really necessary". The director of the MPP Group S.Byambatsogt informed the media about this, during a press conference, which was held earlier this afternoon.
According to the MPP group, they will accept the appointment of N.Enkhbayar as Deputy Prime Minister. Some believe that their next plan is to dismiss the Speaker (Z.Enkhbold), and to co-operate with the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP) by appointing N.Enkhbayar as the Deputy Prime Minister.
After the press conference, the directors of the MPP Group and Democratic Party Group had a meeting. Their outcome of their discussion has not yet been revealed.
"Irregular session is not needed" – Montsame, February 15
MP Odontuya on recently passed laws on children's protection and rights
February 15 (UB Post) The revised Law on Children's Rights and the Law on Child Protection were adopted just before the Lunar New Year. MP S.Odontuya, leader of the parliamentary lobby to support child and family development and led the working group to develop the amendments, spoke to Unuudur Newspaper about the newly adopted changes.
It took a great amount of time to gather the vast amount of research on the field, and to develop the amendments to the laws on child protection and children's rights. Now, finally, the goal has been fulfilled and the changes have been adopted. What are the main objectives of the amendments? Can you please give a brief overview of them ?
The revised versions of the law on children's rights and law on child protection has been successfully ratified by the parliament. The law on protecting children's rights was initially adopted in 1996, and the two new laws were created on the 20th anniversary of the first law on child rights in Mongolia, which is a special occasion. With adoption of the laws, a national system has been created to provide children's rights throughout Mongolia. Secondly, legal arrangements have determined how to resolve issues, such as how to protect a child if it has been exposed to violence, or if its rights have been abused, and how to prevent domestic abuse. Thirdly, public awareness of children's rights and child protection will be improved with the new laws.
Adopting a law is one issue, but enforcing it is another more complicated issue. How are you planning to provide the implementation of these new laws, as it is a common phenomenon in Mongolia that adopted laws just stay valid on paper and are not implemented properly?
What measures will be taken against people who do not fulfill their obligations and do not notify the authorities?
Laws on violations, the Criminal Code, families, and domestic abuse state clearly what obligations a citizen holds in the case of a violation of children's rights.
Under the new laws, governors at all levels bear the responsibly of providing an abused child with temporary custody placement, protecting a child's rights. For instance, a governor should take children under protection if a child has alcoholic parents, or if a child is on probation or has been released from detention, or in the case of disastrous conditions.
Who should you vote for this year?
February 15 (UB Post) First of all, I hope our readers had a very festive Tsagaan Sar. Now that all the hustle and bustle of Tsagaan Sar is over, the public's attention will surely shift back to the upcoming elections.
Political parties are preparing for the elections by forming alliances and merging. Before Tsagaan Sar, the Democratic Party, led by the Speaker of Parliament Z.Enkhbold, joined with the Civil Will Green Party and Mongolian National Democratic Party. On February 9, the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party, led by former President N.Enkhbayar, signed a cooperation agreement with the Mongolian Green Party, meaning that they will run as one party in the parliamentary, provincial and capital city council elections.
Before Tsagaan Sar, there were rumors that the Mongolian People's Party, the main opposition in Parliament with 26 seats, would join with the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party. The two parties have a connected history, but disputes among the parties' younger generation have prevented the merger.
Head of the Mongolian People's Party and Deputy Speaker of Parliament M.Enkhbold said, "The merging of the two parties isn't decided by N.Enkhbayar and M.Enkhbold alone." Plus, MP of the Mongolian People's Party Ts.Nyamdorj is an outspoken antagonist of N.Enkhbayar's party, once calling the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party a "shalbaag" (puddle).
Therefore, the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party has decided to join hands with the less prominent Green Party. This is not the first time the party has joined forces with other political parties to win seats in Parliament. The Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party joined with the Mongolian National Democratic Party in the 2012 parliamentary election to win 11 seats.
No doubt that N.Enkhbayar and O.Bum-Yalagch, the head of the Green Party, hope to win the same number of seats in Parliament in the upcoming election, but many are skeptical of whether the parties can muster up enough supporters and candidates to compete against the Democratic Party and Mongolian People's Party.
The one advantage the alliance with the Green Party has given the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party is that they no longer have to scramble to get a better place on the ballot for its candidates, as the Green Party is the third registered party of Mongolia.
The fact that the Mongolian People's Party is not interested in joining forces with the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party is viewed by some politicians as an indication that the Mongolian People's Party is waiting for N.Enkhbayar's resources to be drained.
Only a handful of relevant politicians and high ranking officials remain from N.Enkhbayar's circle of allies, including E.Batshugar (N.Enkhbayar's son and Deputy Governor of Mongol Bank), Minister Ts.Oyunbaatar, and former Deputy Minister B.Tulga. The rest of his "friends" are said to be keeping their distance from N.Enkhbayar, and the rumor is that he will eventually become irrelevant.
TSAGAAN SAR: A PLATFORM FOR ELECTION DISCUSSIONS
Amidst all these alliances and election conundrums, the forgotten element seems to be the ideals and values of the candidates. Everyone is pretty much saying the same thing. They all say they will restore the nation. They will improve the business environment, keep the benefits of natural resources within the country, house the poor, support the old and the disabled, fight corruption, build infrastructure, protect the environment, provide better education, get us out of the economic recession, and give all three million people of Mongolia a prosperous life. Their goals are identical, as are their means to achieve it. But it is not about goals anymore, it is about who will be in charge. The obvious question is: Who?
During Tsagaan Sar, I had the chance to meet a variety of people from all ages and varied social groups. The election was not a popular conversation topic, and many people just resigned from the idea of talking about political issues. I've observed that the older my conversation partners were, the more cynical their perception of the circumstances of Mongolia were. Middle aged and younger people echoed the sentiment of older people, but with less visceral reactions. At the end of our conversations, many would end with the bewildered sentiment "society is bad these days".
Everyone had their own idea of what should be done to address Mongolia's problems, but the one conversation that stood out to me among all the conversations about the election and politics that I had during Tsagaan Sar was the one with my uncle, Turuu, who is 52 this year. He had the most unconventional view on politics. He said that the Mongolian people think that things are getting worse when, in fact, things are better than ever today.
"When the housing loan started, people said 'this is a ploy to put the people of Mongolia in debt'. Would you rather live with your parents until 40, when you can afford a house?" he asked me. "The fact that young families can get a mortgage and move out from their parents in their twenties is a great opportunity. This opportunity was not available in my time."
"People say corruption is worse than ever because there is are incidents being reported more often than ever before. But, the truth is that more people are getting caught taking bribes than ever before, whereas, in the past, we didn't even know embezzlement was happening because everything was closed up," he added.
Turuu explained that politicians have a difficult job of keeping the peace in a nation with three million people's clashing views. What he said was something to the effect of, "Politicians can't keep everyone happy, so they aim to make at least the majority happy to stay in power."
This means that the interests of some will always be neglected. This is the flaw in democracy. Appealing to the majority is not necessarily fair. If the majority does not contribute to the economy sufficiently, the minority that does (the hand that feeds) is sacrificed for the majority. This is when democracy fails because the majority doesn't necessarily make the right decision. The participants of democracy, the people, need to be educated to make the right decisions as a majority. The right voices must be heard among the discordant bids for the election. So in the end, who should we vote for?
Turuu's sage advice to me on who to vote for was simple: "Vote for the one who promises the most and who is least likely to back out of his promise."
₮1 billion in sales made at Tsagaan Sar 2016 trade fairs
February 15 (UB Post) This year, around 450 domestic producers participated in the annual Tsagaan Sar trade fair and showcased domestic food and goods for twelve days at Hunnu Mall, Night Market, and Mongol Outlet, where a total of one billion MNT in products were sold to customers.
The trade fair opened on January 27 and ended on February 7. During the trade fair, entities offered discounted goods for Tsagaan Sar. Every year, the Ministry of Industry, Ministry of Food and Agriculture and Ulaanbaatar Governor's Office jointly organize the trade fair to support and promote domestic production before the Tsagaan Sar holiday.
National producers earn one billion MNT at Tsagaan Sar fair – Montsame, February 15
Manufacturers make MNT 1 billion in sales – news.mn, February 15
25 package events planned for tourists this year in Ulaanbaatar
Ulaanbaatar, February 15 (MONTSAME) Some 25 packages of events will be organized this year to increase a revenue from tourism in frames of "Friendly Ulaanbaatar" program, said a deputy mayor of Ulaanbaatar Ts.Enkhtsengel and a head of UB Tourism Department E.Battulga at a press briefing February 15.
According to a survey by the Bank of Mongolia, a tourist spends 190 USD a day in Mongolia on average. Mongolia received 385 thousand tourists last year, of which 92 percent headed to countryside passing through Ulaanbaatar. (Mogi: most of these are here to work, not tourism)
The events include art and culture programs during Naadam, "Danshig Naadam–Khuree Tsam 2016" religious festival, a night of classics, and series of festivals that take place at the central square.
The capital city administration is planning a renovation of hotel standards, and has scheduled international conferences and other major events during other seasons than tourism's.
Mongolia FM at 52nd Munich Security Conference
Ulaanbaatar, February 15 (MONTSAME) The chief diplomat of Mongolia L.Purevsuren has taken part in the 52nd Munich Security Conference which ran February 12-14 in Munich of Germany.
Within the event, which brought together Foreign Ministers, Defense Ministers, authorities of the European Union and the NATO, Mr Purevsuren held bilateral meetings with officials of some countries to share views on a preparation for the 11th ASEM Summit that will take place this July in Ulaanbaatar.
The Munich Security Conference is an annual conference on international security policy, it has been taking place since 1963. It is the world's largest gathering of its kind. Over the past four decades, the MSC has become the most important independent forum for the exchange of views by international security policy decision-makers. Each year it brings together some 350 senior figures from more than 70 countries to engage in an intensive debate on current and future security challenges.
This year's action mostly considered issues of combating terrorism, refugees, conflicts in the Middle East, Syria and impact of China over the international area. One of the best outcomes at the conference was a concurrence between Russia and the USA to ceasefire in Syria.
Foreign Minister attends Munich Security Conference – news.mn, February 15
Mongolian Ambassador Addresses 54th Session of UN Commission for Social Development
Ulaanbaatar, February 15 (MONTSAME) The Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Mongolia to the United Nations S.Sukhbold delivered a speech at the general debate last week during the 54th Session of the Commission for Social Development (CSocD54)
The measure ran February 3-12 in New York of the USA. Mr Sukhbold highlighted Mongolia's position regarding the session's theme and introduced to the gathered Mongolia's latest achievements and challenges in social policy and protection.
Under the priority theme "Rethinking and strengthening social development in the contemporary world", the 54th session carried out general debates concerning the UN programme on social groups, implementation of actions. It also ran panel discussions themed "Implementation of the 2030 agenda in the light of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities", "Emerging issues: moving from commitments to results for achieving social development".
Netherlands moves Mongolia to list of safe countries, asylum seekers to be denied
February 15 (UB Post) With the inclusion of Mongolia in the Dutch list of safe countries of origin on February 12, Mongolian asylum seekers will now be considered ineligible for asylum to the Netherlands starting on March 1, and are expected to leave the country immediately.
The Dutch State Secretary of the Ministry of Security and Justice, Klaas Dijkhoff, announced that he added six jurisdictions to Netherland's list of safe countries of origin on February 12: Ghana, India, Jamaica, Morocco, Mongolia, and Senegal. According to the website of the Government of the Netherlands, a country is deemed a safe country of origin if it is safe enough to return to, and if it does not carry out persecution on the grounds of race or religion, or apply torture or inhumane treatment.
Starting March 1, the applications of asylum seekers from safe countries of origin will be subject to an accelerated procedure which consists of a single hearing, and they will be rejected as unfounded. Applicants will be given the opportunity, however, to show why their country may be unsafe in their particular case. Applicants will have to "do more to make a plausible case for needing protection," said Dijkhoff. Asylum seekers whose applications have been refused will no longer be entitled to accommodation and may not wait for the outcome of their appeal in the Netherlands, and must leave the country immediately.
In 2015, the Netherlands received 566 asylum requests from the six countries recently added to the list of safe countries of origin, 12 from India, 20 from Senegal, 23 from Ghana, 68 from Jamaica, 80 from Morocco, and 363 from Mongolia.
Non-Resident Mongolian Ambassador to New Zealand Presents Credentials
Ulaanbaatar, February 15 (MONTSAME) Non-Resident Concurrent Ambassador of Mongolia to New Zealand Mr Batlai Chuluunhuu presented his diplomatic credentials to His Excellency Lieutenant General Sir Jerry Mateparae, the Governor-General of New Zealand on this February 10.
The news was published Monday in the website of the Mongolian Embassy in Australia. Mr Chuluunhuu conveyed Mongolia's President Ts.Elbegdorj's greetings to Sir Mateparae and said the diplomatic relations and cooperation have been remarkably spanning for 40 years.
Sir Jerry Mateparae conveyed his greetings to the Mongolian leader. He underlined that Mongolia and New Zealand have much in common, such as focus on agriculture and added that people-to-people links between the two countries are important for the bilateral cooperation.
Anthias Consulting and charity RORO send Gas Chromatograph to University in Mongolia
February 15 (Cambridge Network) Anthias Consulting is working with charity RORO (Recycling Organisation for Research Opportunities) to connect redundant analytical instrumentation with academic institutions around the world that do not have the necessary finance to purchase new instrumentation.
In September 2015, Diane Turner and Imran Janmohamed from Anthias worked with The Open University to send a Gas Chromatograph Flame Ionization Detector (GC-FID) to the National University of Mongolia. The instrument is currently being set up to analyse Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) along with other toxic organic compounds in the environment.
RORO is actively seeking fellow experts in the fields of GC, GC-MS, HPLC and LC-MS to donate their time and expertise to support the users of donated instrumentation via the Linkedin group here.
ACMS: This Month in Mongolian Studies, February 2016
We wish all of our friends and colleagues a happy and safe Tsagaan Sar!
"This Month in Mongolian Studies" is a monthly listing of selected academic activities and resources related to Mongolia. This list is based on information the ACMS has received and is presented as a service to its members. If you would like to submit information to be included in next month's issue please contact the ACMS at email@example.com and/or the editor, Marissa Smith, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This publication is supported in part by memberships. Please consider becoming a member of the ACMS, or renewing your membership by visiting our website at
mongoliacenter.org/join. Thank you!
In this Issue:
· ACMS Announcements
· ACMS Sponsored Programs and Events
· New Books Acquired for the ACMS Library
· Calls for Papers, Conferences, and Workshops
· Research Fellowships, Scholarships and Grants
· Other News and Events
· Recent Publications
Annual "Altargana" Buryat Festival to Be Held in Ulan-Ude This Year
February 15 (UB Post) The 22nd Altargana Festival of Buryat is to be celebrated from July 1 to 3 in Ulan-Ude of Buryatia. The festival aims to restore and protect the tradition, culture and sports of Buryat. The government of Mongolia established the festival's organizing committee. The Minister of Culture of Buryatia Timur Tsibikov was appointed as head of the festival's organizing committee.
Folk and modern song competition named One Day of Buryats will be held as part of the festival. An exhibition of handicrafts and Daginas beauty contest will be organized during the festival.
Altargana is an international celebration of Buryat tribes, which showcases the traditions of Buryats from Irkutsk and Ulan-Ude, Kalmyk Mongols from north of the Caspian Sea in Russia, Tuvans, Inner Mongolians and Mongolians from around the world. It features folk songs, dances, Buryat wrestling and archery competitions.
The first Altargana Festival was held in 1994 in Khentii Province to promote folk arts and culture of the Buryat people living in Mongolia, Russia and China.
Mongolia signs agreement with U.S. Customs on smuggled dinosaur fossils
Ulaanbaatar, February 15 /MONTSAME/ In the margin of intergovernmental cooperation of Mongolia and the USA, archaeological findings, historic and cultural artifacts, that originated from Mongolia, are being returned. For example, the Ambassador of Mongolia B.Altangerel signed this February 4 an agreement with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office on handing over the properties on a free-of-dispute condition.
Accordingly, the U.S. government is to return Alioramus skull, seized in New York in 2014, Bactrosaurus skull, Protoceratops skeleton and fossil egg bed, Psittacosaurus skeleton and skull, a box of small Protoceratops skeletons and Hadrosaurus skelentons, identified in Utah last year. The findings will be officially handed to the Mongolian authorities this April 5 in New York.
A tyrannosaur of one's own
Dinosaur collecting isn't just for museums any more – film stars and sheikhs do it too. What drives a man to covet big bones?
By Laurie Gwen Shapiro is a novelist, reporter, and Emmy-nominated documentary filmmaker based in New York City.
January 28 (Aeon Magazine) The world's most famous palaeontologist doesn't understand why anyone wants to collect dinosaurs. Mark Norell sits across from me in his expansive corner office at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City and launches right in: 'People are weird. I think: "Who is buying this shit?" No accounting for people's taste. I have a passion for dinosaurs, but certainly not what I would call "dinosaur insanity". Dinosaurs are just a medium for me to do science. But if I were doing the same thing on some other organism – you wouldn't be here.'
I first heard about private dinosaur-collecting in 2007, when the actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Nicolas Cage engaged in a bidding war over a 32-inch Tyrannosaurus bataar skull at an auction in Beverly Hills. In the end, Cage outbid his rival via a $276,000 offer. (Just before Christmas 2015, Cage returned it on order of the department of Homeland Security; unbeknown to him, he had bought a dinosaur part smuggled out of Mongolia.)
Since that auction, I perk up whenever I see news about any other big-name dinosaur collectors: the film directors James Cameron and Ron Howard, actor Brad Pitt, and Nathan Myhrvold, Microsoft's former Chief Technology Officer who, according to Men's Journal, has a Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton in a glass solarium in his large home in Bellevue, Washington. Various high-flying sheikhs are in on the pastime, too. And regardless of what his Republican colleagues think about evolution, the former US House Speaker Newt Gingrich kept a T rex skull cast in his office.
As I read more about this current crop of rich male (always male, it seems) collectors, I gave them their own species name: Abundus egocentrus. I tried to understand their motivation. Was having a big vicious dinosaur on display akin to owning a huge scary dog like a Rottweiler? Were they saying to the world: 'Look what I can tame! Look what I'm not scared of! I'm ruthless, too!' Or maybe there were deeper psychological implications. Did collecting dinosaur fossils tap into childhood issues, delivering a soothing narrative about where we came from? Whatever the answer, there was something about this topic that was infectious and persistent enough to merit an investigation.
Camel Polo championship to be held in March in Dalanzadgad
Ulaanbaatar, February 15 (MONTSAME) The state "Camel Polo 2016" championship will take place in Dalanzadgad soum of Omnogovi (South Gobi) aimag this March 3-6, challenging more than 100 contestants from Omnogovi, Dornogovi, Govi-Altai, Ovorkhangai and Dundgovi.
The events are to be organized by the Association of Camel Polo, Sport Races and Travel of Mongolia, along with the Ministry of Health and Sports and administrations of South Gobi. China's Inner Mongolians have been invited.
Team Mongolia claims silver at 44th Yasar Dogu wrestling tournament
February 15 (UB Post) The Mongolian national freestyle wrestling team competed in the 44th Yasar Dogu international freestyle and women's wrestling tournament, held in Istanbul, Turkey, from February 5 to 7.
In the team result, the Mongolian team scored 52 points and won the silver cup of the tournament.
International Sports Master B.Batmagnai won a gold medal in the men's 65 kg category after defeating formidable Turkish wrestler Mustafa Kaya in the final.
Champion of Universiade T.Tuvshintulga won a silver medal in the men's 61 kg contest.
State Honored Athlete P.Unurbat won a bronze medal the men's 86 kg.
International Sports Master D.Khuderbulga secured a silver medal in the men's 97 kg event.
The Yasar Dogu brought together 460 wrestlers from 15 countries, including Azerbaijan, the USA, Romania, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and France.
Mongolia national basketball players to study under Taiwan university scholarship
Ulaanbaatar, February 15 (MONTSAME) Some players of the national men and women's basketball teams have left for Chinese Taipei to study with scholarships and to have training.
The scholarship programme for the Mongolian players has been implemented in accordance with a cooperation contract which was inked in Ulaanbaatar by S.Erdene, the president of the Mongolian National Federation of Basketball, and by Yu Chin Chai, the president of Taiwan's University of Science and Technology.
The group of players has M.Misheel, a player from the "Khartsaga" club, D.Bayasgalan ("Irvesuud"), N.Naranbaatar ("Aravt"), B.Avirmed ("Shonkhor-Uvs"), O.Dolgoon ("Khartsaga"), M.Tserenlham and Odontuya (University of Science and Technology).
They will have exercises led by a coach of the national team of Chinese Taipei.
'I Was The Mongolian Rodman' — An Interview With Matt Taibbi
The outspoken journalist dishes on media bias, the state of sports journalism, and his days in the Mongolian Basketball Association.
February 15 (The Cauldron, Sports Illustrated) Few journalists working today can match the sheer breadth of voice of Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi. From the searing, Gonzo-tinged satire of The eXile and the Buffalo Beast, to the sweeping investigative exposés that made him one of the most hated men on Wall Street, Taibbi's palette is as colorful as it is carefully considered.
I had a chance to sit down with Taibbi at his hotel in Manchester, New Hampshire, during one of his rare breaks on the Presidential campaign trail. (Homewood Suites: Hot. S*it.) We spent the next 40-or-so minutes discussing the nexus of sports and politics, his brief stint as a professional basketball player in Mongolia, a 7-foot-2, 380-pound man named Orgilbold, whether there was a second gunman at the Kennedy assassination, and how many games this year's Golden State Warriors will win.
TC: I'm gonna ask you to abruptly switch gears here, because this is something I'm amazed more people haven't asked you about. You played professional basketball in Mongolia. Why? More importantly: How?
MT: It was 1996. I was living in Moscow, working for the Moscow Times as a reporter. And I used to play streetball at Moscow State University — actually, if you Google it, you can see the courts. They're some of the best outdoor basketball courts in the world. And there's this gigantic — they call them Stalin skyscrapers — in the background of the Moscow State building. So you're playing out on this court with this giant, behemoth Soviet building behind you. I used to go out there all the time.
One of the guys I was playing with one day was Mongolian. So we got to talking, and he told me there was a league called the MBA — the Mongolian Basketball Association — that was the only other pro league in the world with NBA rules. Twenty-four second shot clock, same distance to the 3-point line, everything. So I quit my job the next day, gathered my s*it up, got on the Trans-Siberian Railroad, took a train to Ulaanbaatar, not knowing anybody. I had a tryout with a team called the Mountain Eagles.
TC: I feel like that's better than in the Philippines, where you have teams named after liquor distributors. I think there's one called the Gin Kings?
MT: The one Andray Blatche played for?
TC: That sounds about right.
MT: So I had a tryout, and I made it. Now, there are a couple of funny things about this that I never mention. One is how the league came into being, which is amazing. The President of the Mongolian Stock Exchange had gone to U.S. on an exchange program in 1994, the year the Knicks and the Rockets played in the Finals. He fell immediately in love with NBA basketball, and he'd record every single game in his dorm room — on videotapes. So when he went back to Mongolia, he brought all these tapes with him, and he illegally broadcast the entire playoff series in Mongolia, and they were the highest-rated television programs in the history of the country. Everybody was completely addicted to basketball.
By the time I got to Ulaanbaatar two years later, it was like Indiana. Seriously. Every single courtyard had a basketball hoop. And Mongolians are really into sports. They love wrestling first and foremost, but they just completely took up basketball with abandon. So when I was on this team — there were maybe eight teams in the league — I was like a national celebrity, almost overnight. I was called "the Mongolian Rodman." And I totally hammed it up. Back then I had hair, so I was dying my hair different colors. I had a goatee. Believe it or not, even though I'm only 6-foot-2, I was leading the league in rebounding. I was getting in fights every game. It was a blast. I would've stayed there, but I got pneumonia and had to leave.
But it was an amazing experience. There were a lot of funny stories. Mongolia had this famous wrestler named Orgilbold. I think he wrestled Sambo, which is a style they have in the Olympics. This guy was 7-foot-2 and 380 pounds.
TC: Shaq-sized, basically.
MT: Yeah, exactly. I mean, he didn't exactly have Shaq's build. This guy had a gut, and was just a weird-looking dude. But I was walking around with my teammates, and I said, "Who the f*ck is that guy?" They were like, "That's Orgilbold. He's a wrestler." I said, "Why the hell isn't he playing for us?" They were like, "He can't play for us." I said, "He doesn't need to play! We'll just put him under the basket, have him put his arms up like this. Nobody will ever score on us again!"
TC: Like Chief in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest!
MT: Exactly! So we drag this guy into a practice. I was trying to talk to him, but his Russian wasn't great, so it was awkward. But it turned out that he literally couldn't catch a pass. Every pass we threw at him would just bounce off his nose. He couldn't block a shot; couldn't do anything. So we worked with him for probably a week and a half, and that was my big, obsessive project. I couldn't sleep because I was thinking about how I was going to turn this guy into the star of Asia. But it didn't work out. There were a bunch of little adventures like that.
TC: That's perfect, because my next question was literally going to be, "What was the single-most bananas thing you saw or experienced?" I think this qualifies.
MT: Players smoked on the bench during games. And the Mongolians drink a kind of tea that contains butter and salt, so it has these little fat globules floating it, and it comes in these little cisterns. So when you got off the court, you'd blaze up a cigarette and drink this disgusting butter tea. For some reason, I just laughed every time that happened.
TC: How many people would show up to these games?
MT: Oh, lots. Probably a thousand. And you have to remember, Mongolia in the winter makes Russia look like Club Med. That's the reason I got sick. Celsius, I think it was around minus-20 — something like that. It was brutal. One of the gyms we played in had a hole in the window, so we could see our breath while we were playing. That was a nightmare.
TC: As a 26-year-old, you must've just constantly been like, "I can't f*cking believe I'm doing this."
MT: I woke up every morning laughing. I'd forget where I was for a second. Then I'd remember and just start laughing. I even had my own radio show in Mongolia where I'd have people call in. I was doing the broadcast in Russian, though, so it was weird. I'm honestly not even that great of a basketball player, but I was like a celebrity in this country. It was very funny. I miss it.
Leonardo DiCaprio Snaps Up Expedition To Mongolia
February 15 (Contactmusic.com) Leonardo DiCaprio is set to put his survival skills from The Revenant to the test after successfully bidding $95,000 (£65,800) for an expedition to Mongolia.
The Oscar nominee was among the big stars in attendance at the amfAR New York gala last week (10Feb16), and it has since emerged he offered up the generous bid for the opportunity to embark on the 10-day trip with Swedish explorer Johan Ernst Nilson.
The expedition will include the exploration of Lake Hovsgol, nicknamed the Dark Blue Pearl of Mongolia, while travellers will be taken horseback riding and hunting with falcons, Nilson tells the New York Post.
They will also enjoy a meal with a nomadic family as part of the excursion, but it won't be quite as rough as Leonardo's experience shooting The Revenant, as they will sleep in a traditional tent, known as a yurt, and have a chef and local guides to help them feel comfortable on the trip.
"When I do these trips, I take people out of their comfort zone in terms of the inner journey and get them doing things they normally wouldn't do," Nilson explains to the Post. "If you push your limits, the reward will be much higher. It's going to be amazing."
Leonardo portrays real-life fur trapper Hugh Glass in The Revenant, which documents his struggle for survival after he is mauled by a bear and left for dead.
The actor he has previously discussed the tough times he had to endure while shooting the intense survival thriller in freezing conditions in Canada and Argentina.
"I can name 30 or 40 sequences that were some of the most difficult things I've ever had to do," he told Yahoo! Movies last year (15). "Whether it's going in and out of frozen rivers, or sleeping in animal carcasses, or what I ate on set. (I was) enduring freezing cold and possible hypothermia constantly."
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