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CICG: Annual General and Special Share Holder Meeting Results
August 12 -- CIC Gold (LSE: CICG) is pleased to announce that the Annual General and Special Shareholders Meeting of the Company was duly convened and held at The Level 8 Suite 802, The St Regis Commercial Center, 21 Jianguomenwai Dajie, Beijing, China 100020 at 5:00 p.m. on Thursday 11, August, 2016.
The following resolutions were duly passed by shareholders of the Company:
1. Election of the directors as nominated by Management.
2. Approve the Corporation Financial Statements 31 December 2015.
3. Appointment of Chapman Davis LLP as Auditors for the Corporation for the ensuing year and authorising the directors to fix their remuneration.
4. Approve the Corporation working capital and budget to 31 December 2017.
5. To ratify all previous acts, deeds, and resolutions of the Board of Directors of the Corporation since 1 January 2015 until this meeting.
6. To transact such other business as may properly come before the Meeting.
Centerra Gold Announces EBRD Joining Oksut Credit Facility
TORONTO, ON--(Marketwired - August 12, 2016) - Centerra Gold Inc. (TSX: CG) is pleased to announce that the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development ("EBRD") joins UniCredit Bank AG ("UniCredit") in the US$150 million project financing term loan facility for the Öksüt Project in Turkey (the "Facility"). EBRD will enter the Facility investing US$75 million and represents EBRD's first mining investment in Turkey.
MSE Weekly Report: Top 20 -0.9%, ALL -0.31%, Turnover ₮134.1 Million Shares
August 12 (MSE) --
Maturity Notice: ₮12 Billion 28-Week 14.108% Discounted T-Bills
August 15 (MSE) Dear investors, please be advised that the following government bond is about to mature.
Symbol of Government Securities
Form of Interest payment
Interest rate (percent)
Reds are rates that set a new record at the time
BoM MNT Rates: Friday, August 12 Close
MNT vs USD (blue), CNY (red) in last 1 year:
BoM issues ₮194.6 billion 1-week bills, total outstanding -5.3% to ₮771.9 billion
August 12 (Bank of Mongolia) BoM issues 1 week bills worth MNT 194.9 billion at a weighted interest rate of 10.5 percent per annum /For previous auctions click here/
New Mongolian government drafts "economic crisis" plan
August 11 (bne IntelliNews) Mongolia's new government is drafting an "economic crisis'' plan as it seeks to deal with slowing growth, a soaring budget deficit and a declining currency, Bloomberg reported on August 10, citing the country's Finance Minister Choijilsuren Battogtokh.
Is Mongolia really facing an economic recession?
August 12 (gogo.mn) Minister of Finance B.Choijilsuren made a statement to the public to present information about the nation's current socio-economic, budgetary, and financial conditions, after which, many people started asking if the country's economic situation was truly in critical condition.
MONGOLIA'S ECONOMIC GROWTH
The Minister said that the four main indicators of the economy have consistently fallen over the last four years. Economic growth, which stood at 17.3 percent in 2012, is expected to be 1.3 percent at the end of this year. Falling prices for mineral products on the international market have negatively influenced the nation's export revenue, budget savings, and foreign currency flow. Minister B.Choijilsuren underlined, "Because of inaccurate estimations and poor policies and decisions implemented over the last four years, Mongolia's economic, budget, and financial conditions are in critical condition."
Minister Choijilsuren went on to explain some of the factors that determine financial stability for Mongolia.
In 2014, money supply increased by 66 percent in comparison to 2011, but started decreasing in 2015. As of January 2016, the nation's money supply had fallen to 9.85 trillion MNT.
"In times when the balance of payments deficit increased, and foreign direct investment drastically dropped, supplying a great amount of money to the market that wasn't linked to economic conditions was one of the main factors putting a burden on Mongolia's economy," the Minister stressed.
Minister Choijilsuren noted that as a result of these poor decisions, banking system risk increased, foreign currency reserves dropped, and the MNT depreciated. In the last four years, money supply exceeded the nation's economic growth by over 85 percent, which the Minister sees as evidence of the former government adhering to poor monetary policy.
B.Choijilsuren said that from 2011 to 2013, cashin transactions increased by 18 percent, but they started falling in 2014. As of February 2016, cashin transactions were 655 billion MNT. In February it increased by 183.7 billion MNT and reached 839.2 billion MNT, which created a cash shortage and contributed to the economic crisis.
RISK IN THE BANKING SYSTEM
As of the first six months of 2016, Mongolia's domestic savings equaled 7.9 trillion MNT, while its debt stood at 12 trillion MNT. Non-performing and overdue loans reached 1.9 trillion MNT, 15.5 percent of all loans issued. The result was 11.6 times higher than it was in 2011.
LOAN INTEREST RATE
The average interest rate for tugrug loans, which stood at 15.5 percent in 2011, went up by 5.7 percent, reaching 21.2 percent as of June 2016. Risk in the banking system and the interest rates for financial resources drawn by banks increased, following which, loan issuance is expected to shrink and loan interest rates are expected to increase.
In order to mitigate rising loan interest rates, the Cabinet and Mongol Bank say they have no choice but to take out long-term and concessional loans from international organizations and partnership countries.
In 2011, foreign direct investment in Mongolia equaled 4.62 billion USD, but the figure has consistently decreased since then and reached 110.2 million USD in 2015. As of the first half of 2016, foreign direct investment dropped to 35 million USD.
"This is the biggest sign that foreign investors have lost their trust in Mongolia," Choijilsuren emphasized.
As of the end of 2015, Mongolia's foreign trade turnover dropped to 8.46 billion USD, down by 2.95 billion USD compared to 2011. As of the first half of 2016, export was 2.2 billion USD, and import 1.5 billion USD, which was a result down by 13 percent in comparison to 2015.
Minister Choijilsuren claimed, "Positive foreign trade turnover in the last two years wasn't because of good policy and activities carried out by the former cabinet, but because the tugrug rate depreciated by around 48 percent, and foreign investment, people's purchasing power, and living standards have declined over the last four years."
BALANCE OF PAYMENTS
As of the first half of 2016, the balance of payments deficit equaled -93.6 million USD, while the overall balance was -46 million USD. The Finance Minister said that the increased deficit was symptomatic of the economic crisis and MNT depreciation. "The balance of payments deficit means that Mongolia is exporting its domestically produced wealth to foreign countries, and in the last four years, we lost wealth equal to 8.1 million USD," the Minister pointed out.
FOREIGN CURRENCY RESERVES
The nation's foreign currency reserves, which stood at 4.1 billion USD as of the end of 2012, have consistently decreased in the past four years. As of June 2016, Mongolia's foreign currency reserves fell to 1.2 million USD. The new authorities of Mongol Bank reported that net foreign currency reserves dropped to -429 million USD.
"You all know that the drastic MNT exchange rate decrease was due to foreign currency reserve depletion. The MNT exchange rate depreciated by 58 percent against the nation's main foreign trade currency. Specifically, it was estimated that entities with debt saw over 850 billion MNT in deficits per year due to exchange rate discrepancies," stressed Minister Choijilsuren.
STOCK MARKET ASSESSMENT
The economic crisis has impacted the stock market, and from 2011 to 2015 the nation's stock market assessment fell by 40 percent, and shareholders saw losses of over 900 billion MNT.
In the past four years, international credit rating service provider Standard and Poor's lowered Mongolia's credit rating by four levels. The Finance Minister said that as a result of lower credit ratings, access to loans with low-interest rates and pleasant conditions for the Government of Mongolia and domestic companies has become limited. In April 2015, the former cabinet released 500 million USD in government bonds on the international market. The annual interest rate for the bond has reached 11 percent, which is six percent higher than the interest rate of the Chinggis Bond.
As of the first half of 2016, a total of 134,813 entities were registered in Mongolia, 66,388 of which have suspended their operations.
"This is the biggest example of how the nation's economy and business environment has declined. Because thousands of companies closed their doors, unemployment increased, and people's purchasing power and livelihoods have drastically grown worse. We can overcome today's economic crisis based on the nation's private sector. That's why the state's policy should be directed toward resuming the operations of entities," noted the Finance Minister.
As of the first half of 2016, Mongolia's total foreign debt stood at 23.5 billion USD, which was 210 percent higher than the nation's GDP. The debt of the Cabinet reached five billion USD, Mongol Bank's was 1.8 billion USD, Development Bank's was 1.6 billion USD, the debt of commercial banks was 1.9 billion USD, the nation's private sector's loans reached 2.1 billion MNT, and loans taken out by investors reached 11.1 billion USD.
In the past three years, Mongolia's state budget revenue was cut by over one trillion MNT, and two to three budgetary amendments were made every year. The Minister said that the great budget deficit Mongolia has consistently faced over the last four years has been due to the economic crisis and inefficiently spending taxpayer money.
In accordance with the Law on Budget Sustainability, budget deficit shouldn't exceed four percent of the GDP, 974.9 billion MNT. However, as of the first seven months of 2016, the nation's budget deficit reached two trillion MNT.
Minister Choijilsuren said that if Mongolia doesn't make amendments to the budget immediately and mitigate budget expenses, the nation's budget expenditure will reach 10.3 trillion MNT with 5.1 trillion in deficits by the end of 2016, which would exceed the nation's GDP by 21.1 percent.
The Finance Minister also emphasized concerns about illegal financing not included in the state budget. He said that when budget revenue was cut by 1.8 trillion MNT, the former cabinet increased budget expenditure by violating the Law on Budget and other laws, increasing the public's debt.
Under their "Good" programs, the former cabinet approved the spending of nearly 1.14 trillion MNT, and issued 553.8 billion MNT to fund the programs, taking out 596 billion MNT in loans.
According to preliminary budget performance reports, Mongolia paid 37.2 billion MNT in loan interest in 2011, but the figure rose to 1.8 trillion MNT in 2016, which was 29 times higher than interest payment in 2012.
"Because the previous cabinet financed many projects and programs through loans, budget pressure and debt ceilings have increased, following which, loan interest payment is expected to intensively increase in the future. Mongolia is going to start paying bond repayment in 2017. We warn that because prices for mineral products have fallen in the international market, and because Mongolia's foreign currency reserves are not sufficient and Mongolia's credit rating was dropped to –B2, when the budget deficit is over one trillion MNT in 2016, it will be really difficult to pay the bond repayment," underlined B.Choijilsuren.
A series of graphs were presented to illustrate the data being discussed. "If we pay all of our debts in accordance with these graphics, and don't take out any additional loans, the government has only 1.3 trillion MNT to finance all of its operations. This is not even sufficient to issue salaries to state servants, and the Cabinet would need 5.8 trillion MNT to conduct its operations." the Minister said.
The Minister said that it was right to present the public with the realities of the state budget, and the economic and financial crisis in Mongolia. "Even though the economic situation is challenging, the Cabinet is feeling positive about the nation's future and is working on a comprehensive plan to overcome these difficulties," he said.
At the end of his statement, B.Choijilsuren said that the Cabinet will present its plan to the National Security Council, Parliament, and the public.
Following the Finance Minister's speech, former Speaker of Parliament Z.Enkhbold made a statement on his Facebook page, giving advice to the new Finance Minister. Z.Enkhbold suggested that the Finance Minister give interviews after becoming well acquainted with his job, and said that the nation's state budget deficit equaled one trillion MNT, like it has over the last four years. He said B.Choijilsuren, who has been part of the budget working group every year, and Prime Minister J.Erdenebat, a former finance minister, know this situation well.
The former speaker also said, "The Finance Minister could ask the Finance Ministry and learn that the five percent interest rate housing program, and the Good herder, fence, share, and student programs are not included in the state budget. Individuals will repay their debts, not the state. Thanks to these programs, interest rates of 33 percent for loans issued were changed from two digits to one digit."
He added, "Please don't politicize the budget deficit and to stop these good policies, and get back to work. The elections have finished."
Mongolia discusses investment with Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank
August 12 (UB Post) In a meeting with Prime Minister J.Erdenebat, Vice President of the Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank (AIIB) D.J. Pandian spoke about the bank's investment conditions and expressed interest in cooperating with Mongolia.
The Prime Minister underlined that Mongolia has supported the initiative to establish the AIIB from the very beginning. He noted that Mongolia closely observes the activities of the AIIB and hopes that its future activities will be successfully carried out.
Prime Minister J.Erdenebat suggested that Pandian pay attention to making investments in Mongolia's infrastructure sector.
Following his meeting with the PM, Vice President Pandian was received by Minister of Roads and Transportation D.Ganbat to discuss investments in developing Mongolia's transportation infrastructure sector.
Beginning the meeting, Minister Ganbat underlined that Mongolia, China, and Russia are establishing an economic corridor program. He said that through the program the three countries will collaborate on over ten road and railway development projects.
Minister Ganbat said, "Estimates show that Mongolia will need around 10,000 freight trains in the near future, in connection with the nation's mining and industrial development. We need financing to implement a project to build a freight train fabrication factory. We also need to expand and renovate 205 kilometers of paved roads with socio and economic importance, connecting Ulaanbaatar to Darkhan, and to upgrade Umnugovi Province's Gurvan Saikhan Airport to receive international flights. We want to cooperate with the AIIB in implementing these projects."
The AIIB delegates promised to conduct comprehensive studies of the Minister's proposals and closely cooperate with Mongolia.
Mongolia to harvest 491.2 thousand hectares this autumn
August 12 (news.mn) This autumn, Mongolia is expected to harvest an area totaling 491.2 thousand hectares, of which 375.3 thousand are cereal crops, 14.2 thousand hectares potatoes, 7.8 thousand hectares vegetables, 4.2 thousand hectares medicinal herbs and 317 hectares fruit. The crop growing have been precocious this year. Subsequently, the harvesting season will begin 10 days early.
The Mongolian Crop Farming Support Fund is providing loans to farmers to buy 6000 tonnes of fuel oil for harvesting. For this a prepayment of up to 50% is required - the rest being paid by the crop.
Indian e-commerce startup "Shopzippy" to enter Mongolia
Ulaanbaatar, August 12 (MONTSAME) Shopzippy, which is India's first free assisted E-commerce startup, decided to take its platform to Mongolia. The company is expanding its business in different geographies with a localized approach. Global E-commerce is going at an unprecedented scale and this huge untapped market as well ease of doing business is triggered to go beyond Indian borders to carry-out business.
'During my visits to many foreign countries I observed how people are addicted to India. Indian food and movies are famous all over as well at their art and crafts. I get to see some people inquiring specialist of Indian stuff which is very expensive in local markets. This gave me a big hint to go global' says Ranadheer Reddy, Founder of Shopzippy. When it comes to foreign markets, the company prefers JVs with local partners because of Knowledge and Operational Flexibility.
Bolstering a Fair and Enabling Business Environment: A Case of Country of Origin Certificates
August 8 (AmCham Mongolia) The American Chamber of Commerce in Mongolia (AmCham), who represents the interests of the business community of Mongolia, commends the Mongolian People's Party (MPP) Parliament and Cabinet that have come into power with the stated intent of stabilizing the Mongolian economy, regaining investors' confidence and supporting development of the private sector.
However, in early June 2016, the Customs General Administration issued a new regulation that requires all imports entering Mongolia to be accompanied by an original Country of Origin (CofO) certificate to obtain the most favored nation (MFN) tariff rate. Previously Mongolian Customs only required this documentation for goods classified as hazardous. The regulation, which would create many issues for importers, Mongolian businesses, and Mongolian consumers, is scheduled to be in effect on October 1st, 2016.
It appears that implementation of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between Mongolia and Japan is the impetus for this new regulation. The EPA requires an original CofO certificate for Japanese goods entering Mongolia so that they may receive zero or lower tariffs. Meanwhile, Japan only requires a CofO certificate for imports claiming a trade preference. It is neither fair nor efficient for Mongolian Customs to require all imports coming into Mongolia to have an original CofO certificate.
Furthermore, the World Trade Organization (WTO) does not require all imports coming into WTO member states, which Mongolia is, to have such documentation unless preferential tariff treatment are being sought. According to WTO, the preferential tariff rates, such as those included in the Mongolia-Japan EPA shall not constitute an impediment to trade on a MFN basis and should not raise barriers or create undue difficulties. However, the new regulation of CofO certificate requirement will put an enormous burden directly on businesses that import to Mongolia from WTO member states, with the exception of Japan.
There are numerous negative effects of this impending new regulation, including:
1. All 163 members of the WTO will be required to supply a CofO certificate for their goods to enter Mongolia at the MFN rate, which will unfairly discriminate against countries without an FTA with Mongolia
2. It will lead to making Mongolian exports less competitive and attractive due to possible reciprocation from other countries
3. It will impose heavy burdens and costs on all imports that are not seeking a preferential rate, which will impact the price of goods and be passed on to Mongolian consumers
4. It will lead to unnecessary additional delays and add 3-5 working days to the shipment, which is a huge burden and loss for importing businesses. For instance, it will result in the loss of millions of tons in production and revenue. In the case of mining companies, large amounts of tax revenues will be lost, which is hardly conducive to increasing investors' confidence and growing the mining industry
5. It will also impose a great burden on the Mongolian Customs Administration and require more man power and increase the operating costs of the department
The regulation as written also gives very broad discretionary powers to the individual customs officers to determine whether the CofO certificate provided justifies the normal MFN rate or not and enables a non-MFN tariff rate, which could be double the MFN rate to be applied before the goods can enter Mongolia. Further, it is particularly counter-productive to the admirable anti-corruption initiatives and procedures taken by the Mongolian Customs Authority in recent years to speed up the import process
We urge the Mongolian Parliament to reinstate the status quo and require only hazardous goods and those imports requesting zero or preferential tariff rates to provide an original Country of Origin certificate. This fair and reasonable policy will encourage international trade and commerce, send a positive message to foreign investors, will not burden Mongolian companies or customers with unnecessary costs and burdens, and will bolster a fair and enabling business environment in Mongolia.
Mongolia must produce globally attractive gers, says ger maker E.Batbold
August 12 (UB Post) Khaadiin Ger LLC is a Mongolian company with a high reputation among national and international consumers as a manufacturer of gers and furniture. The ger is the traditional dwelling of Mongolian nomads that is portable and felt-lined. The company actively participates in international fairs and exhibitions to promote their unique Mongolian ger structures and furniture. Khaadiin Ger has even won top prizes from fairs held in South Korea and Taiwan in 2014 and 2015.
The following is an interview with director of Khaadiin Ger E.Batbold about his company.
When was Khaadiin Ger established?
The foundation of our company was set up in 2007. We were self-employed until 2014, when we became an official company. Professional carvers and painters work for Khaadiin Ger. Mongolian State Honored Cultural Worker, illustrator and carver G.Tsogbayar is working as an adviser of our company.
Many consumers say that Khaadiin Ger produces artistic and luxurious furniture for gers that have incredible details. How are gers and products manufactured by Khaadiin Ger different from other companies in this field?
Our products are unique probably because we incorporate historic characteristics to them. We aim to show younger generations things that Mongolians used to use during certain historic periods and help them understand the history of Mongolia and the lifestyle of Mongolians of the past. As Mongolia's traditional consumptions are all 100 percent eco products, it's still valuable today. Therefore, we make furniture and ger structures from pure wood and felt; products with animal origin. We don't use chemicals at all. Gers are made in the traditional method. We discussed with our advisors and considered it was more significant to make gers with historic characteristics.
Which century does the ger [in the picture] belong to?
This ger is a model of gers in Khunnu era (III century BC). The main attributes and symbol used at the time were deer and falcon. That's why this ger has many carvings of deers and falcons.
Gers of how many historic periods have you made so far?
The ger of Khunnu era is the first historic ger that has been completed so far. It has already received several prizes as well. Now, we're making a little more modern gers, from the 13th century, and another ger that was used by queens during that time. Blueprints have been developed. Soon, young people will be able to personally see a ger that Mongolian queens used to live in.
How much does a Khunnu era ger cost?
We set the price at 45 million MNT.
Does it take long to sell a ger because of its high price? Most tourist camps purchase and set up cheap gers. Can you comment on this?
We don't get restrained by the price. We value the quality over the cost and make gers exactly the way it should be. But we do accept orders for customized gers. Our business will not grow if we only make historic gers. People like buying our gers because they know we stick to the traditional structure and design of gers and use natural materials that don't harm the human body.
Some tourism camps have gers that are too embarrassing to show not only to foreigners but even to Mongolians. It's obvious that tourism camps will need to make profit but shouldn't they be more careful and responsible on this matter since they represent the culture of Mongolia to foreign guests? What's your opinion on this?
This is definitely an important issue that needs to be raised. It seems that Mongolian businesses are being too concerned and bound by the opportunities and funds they have.
Even if they had adequate funds and capacity, I doubt that they would set up gers that fully portray the traditional Mongolian lifestyle and provide all the necessary furniture for tourists. As tourism camps start off with the funds in their pockets these days, they would prefer finding cheaper gers from markets and other places to set them up at their camp.
Anyone who enters the Khunnu era ger can immediately experience and see nomadic lifestyle and culture. On the other hand, most gers at tourism camps consist of a few beds, a table in the middle and some chairs. According to some guides, there are many tourists who feel uncomfortable in these gers and want to leave as soon as possible.
We can't forget that tourists and travelers don't really use gers cleanly. No matter how magnificent a ger is, it wouldn't be so encouraging to build or have it set up if people don't value it. People need to learn to treasure gers and the national culture regardless of the owner. They should use gers of camps cleanly as if it's their own home. Yet, there are numerous people who think it is okay to damage furniture inside gers of tourism camps just because they paid to stay. I think that this might be the reason why not all camps have grand and luxurious gers.
The issue can be resolved easily with some effort. This is also a matter of cultural production. Like the saying "cut one's coat according to one's cloth", I observed that tourism camps choose different gers. Some ask for cheaper gers that aren't extravagant, while others search for gers that are luxurious, fully furnished and fit for honored guests.
People make their choices based on who is to use it. Still, tourism camps should also try to promote the history, tradition and cultures of Mongolia.
You seem to prioritize the promotion of Mongolian cultures to foreigners. However, Khaadiin Ger is also a company. Isn't it difficult to always make model gers? Don't you also need to do business and gain profit?
Rather than gaining profit, we strive to provide cheap gers, furniture and wooden items that are satisfactory and consistent to requests of companies or individuals. Prices vary depending on the size of the ger, details of carvings, the design and other factors. There are times when we need to be more flexible in consideration of the design and size they want as well as their financial capacity.
Mongolians frequently mention the economic difficulty and refrain from luxuries, but your company seems to be able to sustain well. How is business in general?
There are always individuals or companies interested in purchasing certain number of gers. Most subscribers of Khaadiin Ger are individuals and the majority of them are people who value and respect Mongolian traditional lifestyles, cultures and heritages. Some people buy gers for the health of their family because they know that gers provide good air circulation and ventilation. These people usually set up gers next to their house and stay there to rest during hot days.
Most importantly, the biggest ambition of Khaadiin Ger is to export the gers we produce.
Exporting furniture gives the impression that a furniture company is expanding their business. But exporting a ger sounds very new. People are skeptical about whether foreigners would purchase Mongolian gers and live in them. There's some news that Mongolians and people specialized in Mongolian Studies buy gers overseas and that there is an increasing number of foreigners who hold their weddings in Mongolian gers. Exactly who are purchasing gers outside of Mongolia?
Our company tried exporting gers to Russia. We exported it to Ulaan Ude. Some individuals were interested in setting up Mongolian gers next to their main house. Looking at this, it can be said that foreigners are starting to understand the significance and specialty of Mongolian gers. Now, we must make gers that attract the attention of foreigners. This is part of the reason why our company strives to research gers of different generations and incorporate historic characteristics into our gers.
Lately, running a business in Mongolia has become very challenging, according to some entrepreneurs. How is the current economic situation impacting your company?
Of course, we do feel the impact. I mean, we don't produce products for daily usage. People don't buy furniture every day so our company decided to export our products to our neighboring countries, China and Russia, with the objective to promote and increase procurement. It is useless to sit around complaining about low sales, slow business and decreasing number of customers. Foreign currency will come to Mongolia only if we continue to export products. It doesn't matter if the export volume is low at the moment.
ADB'S Future Cities Program coming to Ulaanbaatar
August 12 (UB Post) Ulaanbaatar has been selected from the Pacific region to help pioneer a new Asian Development Bank (ADB) initiative to accelerate urban development and make six cities more livable. Along with Ulaanbaatar, the Future Cities Program will be carried out in Mandalay in Myanmar, Colombo in Sri Lanka, Badung in Indonesia, Suva in Fiji, and Tbilisi in Georgia.
Ulaanbaatar Mayor S.Batbold signed a memorandum on August 10 with the Principal Economist in the East Asia Department of ADB, Yolanda Fernandez Lommen, to execute the Future Cities Program in Ulaanbaatar.
The program includes several projects to support the Smart Ulaanbaatar Program, aimed at adopting new digital systems for urban development, improving urban financial mechanisms, and increasing infrastructure investment in Mongolia. It will also facilitate ADB's long-term engagement with selected cities across Asia and the Pacific, integrating urban development in partnership with each selected city and government.
"I thank everyone working for the ADB, which has assisted in many projects aimed at resolving urgent issues in Ulaanbaatar related to air and soil pollution, as well as public transportation," said S.Batbold, Mayor of Ulaanbaatar. "I'd like to highlight that ADB is a key cooperation partner in Ulaanbaatar. I'm elated that Ulaanbaatar has been selected as one of the six cities to pioneer the ADB's Future Cities Program. We will actively participate in many more projects in the future."
Ulaanbaatar Discusses Its Socio-Economic Objectives
August 12 (UB Post) The first Ulaanbaatar's Socio-Economic Goal discussion was successfully held on Thursday, under the implementation of the Happy City Program.
Chairman of the Citizens' Representative Khural Ts.Sandui presented opening remarks at the event. He said, "Thank you [citizens] for accepting our invitation and coming to share your suggestions for Ulaanbaatar's development. In order to create a happy city, we want to ask you which projects implemented by the previous cabinet need to be moved forward, and which should be suspended over the next four years, including them in the Ulaanbaatar Mayor's action plan and in Ulaanbaatar's socio-economic goals."
The Happy City Program will be carried out in five directions: to protect and improve living standards; to create a stronger legal environment; to develop the finance, business, and investment sectors; to regulate settlement; and to renovate housing policy.
Under the program, Ulaanbaatar's authorities say they will implement projects to build 45 kindergartens and schools, three hospitals, four sports complexes, two swimming pools, and five cultural centers.
The program's organizers hope to create pleasant conditions for developing the nation's education, healthcare, culture, sports, and tourism sectors, and carry out the City Without Smoke 2020 project to mitigate the country's air pollution.
Ulaanbaatar's leaders say they will also take measures to increase the flow of the Tuul, Selbe, and Dund rivers to create pleasant, comfortable, and healthy conditions for the public to enjoy the city's riverbanks, and to intensify efforts to screen for cancer and improve disease prevention efforts.
They also said that road construction and expansion projects will continue, and projects to improve and expand power plants, the construction of new small-scale water treatment facilities, and a new ger district development policy will be carried out over the next four years.
Participants in Ulaanbaatar's Socio Economic Goal discussion thanked the city's authorities for hearing their voices and suggestions.
Speech at North East Asian cities Mayors' Forum: The role of cities in achieving SDGs and sustainable development
By Beate Trankmann, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Representative
August 4 (UNDP Mongolia) --
City and ideology: politics of urbanscape in Post-Socialist Mongolia
By Orhon Myadar,
(The Newsletter 74, Summer 2016, International Institute for Asian Studies) Urban space is one of the ways by which the state's ideological shift is articulated in post-socialist Mongolia. The state's ideological shift is easily 'readable' in the post-soviet cityscape, especially in the capital city, Ulaanbaatar, where the city's symbolic architecture and iconography have been profoundly altered to reflect the ongoing power arrangements. Specifically, the state has appropriated Chinggis Khan1 to symbolically narrate a new political ideology and has used him as the foremost representation of national identity in the post-socialist era. The omnipresent glorification of Chinggis Khan in the new Mongolia can be juxtaposed against the disappearing and displaced symbolic representations of the Soviet era (e.g., the statue of Lenin) to show the manner in which Chinggis Khan has been used as a political and ideological tool in post-socialist Mongolia. To illustrate this juxtaposition, the article examines the changing symbolic landscape of post-socialist Mongolia's urbanscape using three primary sites: the central square, the statue of Lenin, and the Chinggis Khan monument.
These three sites illustrate the state's instrumentality in determining which version of history is invoked and which version is silenced at any given period. The dialectical method is helpful to situate the integrated totality of the state's appropriation of the national past and its fractured materiality within the confines of an ideological framework. It illuminates the binaries within the structure of the state's ideological pursuits: between what is remembered and what is forgotten.
While many Mongolians clung – and continue to cling – to socialism, the Mongolian state's commitment to socialist ideology came to a halt following the collapse of international communism in the late eighties and early nineties. Since the break-up of the former Soviet Union, Mongolia has gone through a remarkable political transformation – effectively shedding its socialist cast and breaking away from the Soviet ideological model. The new Mongolian elite assumed the role of producing a Mongolian ideological path detached from the Soviet mold. This ideological path would justify the dismantling of cherished vestiges of socialism. The process has been, in Bulag's words, "a challenge to seventy years' of production and reproduction of Mongol identity and the entire social order".2
When a political regime changes, new national leaders often use urban space to articulate the ideological shift, unless the new regime is largely an extension of the previous regime. Symbols of national and political identity serve as milieus of national identity and sites of political contestation. New expressions of the state ideology, however, are not imposed onto an empty landscape. Rather the old has to be razed for the new to occupy the space, both literally and metaphorically. A substantial amount of human and material resources are devoted to inscribing the state's new ideology and to projecting the new triumphant national identity.
The central square
Like many former socialist cities, Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia, radiates physically and symbolically outwards from its central square. Long before the square was cemented, it was already a gathering site where political leaders spoke to the public from a wooden podium. One such leader was Sukhbaatar, Mongolia's most idolized figure during the socialist era for his role in fighting and securing Mongolia's independence. During the socialist years, Sukhbaatar was undoubtedly the foremost representation and symbol of the country's socialist ideology. He became the material expression of the state, from banknotes, to grand statues, to streets, provinces and cities either decorated with his image or named after him. To honor and monumentalize Sukhbaatar's legacy, the central square was chosen as the embodiment of his contribution to the national cause. In the center of the square, a prominent equestrian statue of Sukhbaatar was erected in 1946. Sukhbaatar is seated on his horse looking north – presumably toward Russia – capturing Mongolia's commitment to the Soviet Union and Soviet leadership in the quest for international communism. Sukhbaatar was the original leader of the Revolutionary Party until his untimely death at the age of 30. The Revolutionary Party went on to control Mongolia for seven decades, during which time many generations of Mongolian's grew up playing, walking, and gathering under Sukhbaatar's fatherly eye.
In 1954, a mausoleum was built and ceremoniously opened immediately to the north of the square, as part of the main government building. The mausoleum was to house the remains of Sukhbaatar reifying his legacy and preserving his cult of personality posthumously. Although Sukhbaatar had been dead for over three decades by the time the mausoleum was constructed, his remains were exhumed and transferred from Altan Ulgii, where he had been previously buried. In the mausoleum, Sukhbaatar's remains were accompanied by those of Horloogyn Choibalsan. Choibalsan ruled Mongolia for over two decades after Sukhbaatar, amassing complete political power. The mausoleum was thus to embody and serve as a constant reminder of Sukhbaatar and Choibalsan and the socialist ideology they personified. With Sukhbaatar's statue at its center and his remains in an overlooking mausoleum, the square was always, since formalized inception, known as Sukhbaatar's square.
And then surprisingly, breaking from this long history, the state changed the central square's name from Sukhbaatar Square to Chinggis Khan Square, in the summer of 2013. It was a remarkable move not only because the square is an important public space, but also because it has served as a primary platform for both political expressions and informal gatherings since its inception. One of the common metaphors that is used to understand the politics of space is that of understanding a site as a text. Geographers have long argued that an urban space functions as a text bears meanings that are authored for particular purposes.3 If we use the text metaphor to understand the evolving meanings of the square, we can see that the square has been used as a site to express the changing political ideology of the state.
The decision to change Sukhbaatar Square's name to Chinggis Khan Square can be read not only as an attempt to signal the ideological departure from the previous regime but also as an effort to erase the memory associated with the site and to instill a new memory. Similarly, the material expressions of socialist ideology are fading in post-socialist Mongolia. The grand mausoleum of Sukhbaatar and Choibalsan, for example, was demolished and in its place now stands a statue of Chinggis Khan. When the government of Mongolia removed the mausoleum it was not a mere architectural re-arrangement of the physical space. By demolishing the left-over relic of the socialist-era, the newly appropriated space was to represent the country's departure from its socialist legacy and arrival at a newly reinvigorated society.
Statue of Lenin
During the same year that Sukhbaatar Square was renamed Chinggis Khan Square (2013), another monument of socialist memory was erased from Ulaanbaatar's symbolic landscape: the statue of Lenin, which had stood near the center of Ulaanbaatar for several decades. Witnessed by about 300 people on a sunny October day the statue was brought down, whilst the mayor of the city, Bat-Uul Erdene, gave a speech justifying the act (fig.1).
Orhon Myadar is an Assistant Professor of Geography and Development at the University of Arizona. Her research interests lie within the intersection of politics and geography (email@example.com; geography.arizona.edu/user/orhon-myadar).
Road and Transport Minister welcomes Ambassador Shimizu
Ulaanbaatar, August 12 (MONTSAME) Minister of Road and Transport Development D.Ganbat received August 11 the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to Mongolia Takenori Shimizu. The Minister introduced the intended projects of his sector and expressed interest to expand cooperation with Japan.
The New Ulaanbaatar International Airport (NUBIA) project was an important step towards upgraded cooperation of Mongolia and Japan in economic and infrastructural sectors. The government is intending to make the NUBIA a compatible junction point in the region.
The minister made a request for Japan's support for Mongolia's involvement in the airfare relations in the region, for launching flights to Japan transferring through China.
The Mongolian side also asked Japanese to study the possibilities of financing the railway projects to connect Tavantolgoi with Sainshand, Sainshand with Khoot and Choibalsan, and the potential maritime collaboration, as a strong sea power.
Ambassador Shimizu accepted the above requests and said that Mongolia has a great opportunity of growth without exporting minerals, and rather, by attracting more foreign investment and adequate government policy coordinated with the investments.
Mongolia and JICA are fully capable of working closely on the technical issues, suggested the Ambassador.
Mongolian PM and Turkish Ambassador discuss cooperation
Ulaanbaatar, August 12 (MONTSAME) Head of the Government J.Erdenebat received August 11 the Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey to Mongolia Murat Karagoz. The latter emphasized, at the beginning of the meeting, that Mongolia and Turkey has long-standing ties from the ancient times.
He mentioned the comprehensive partnership has been expanding and throughout many sectors.
In response, the PM pledged his effort in broadening the economic ties and increasing the frequency of high-level interactions.
The Intergovernmental Committee on Economy and Trade has the next meeting coming up in the near future in Ulaanbaatar. The Premier said the Mongolian side will attach greater importance on successfully organizing this meeting. He extended his gratitude to the Turkish government for the fact that 300 of total 900 Mongolian students studying in Turkey enjoy the Turkish Government scholarships.
TIKA (Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency) have made some USD 30 million of investment to realizing more than 450 projects in Mongolia, mentioned the Ambassador.
This year marks 25th anniversary of first Peace Corps operation in Mongolia
Ulaanbaatar, August 12 (MONTSAME) President of Mongolia Ts.Elbegdorj received August 12 the Peace Corps delegates, led by the director Ms Carrie Hessler-Radelet. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the diplomatic ties between Mongolia and the USA, as well as the 25th anniversary of the first Peace Corps mission in Mongolia.
In his speech during the meeting, the President applauded the intensified relations between Mongolia and the US in politics, economy, defense and other fields, and noted that the Peace Corps have been making its contribution in all these, and most importantly, the people-to-people ties.
The operations of Peace Corps in Mongolia began in 1991, and Mongolia has become the host for more than 1,200 American volunteers, who worked throughout all 21 provinces of our country.
In the past 25 years, the Peace Corps volunteers have reached one of every three soums of Mongolia and took part in development and healthcare programs.
Another 47 volunteers have arrived here to take the oath on August 13, 2016.
Mongolia enforces latest sanctions on North Korean ships
August 12 (NK News) The Mongolian government said it has delisted 14 North Korean vessels registered in the country, following the passage of the UN's most recent resolution passed in March.
The DPRK's shady practices led the UN, the U.S., South Korea and Japan to take specific action on North Korean shipping. All UN member states should now refuse entry to a list of 27 vessels, while also prohibiting the use of North Korean crew or ship chartering services.
The new sanctions call "upon the Member States to de-register any vessel that is owned, operated or crewed by the DPRK," paragraph 19 of Resolution 2270 reads.
TESTING THE WATERS
Mongolia's report did not include a list of which vessels were struck off its register, but the business of reflagging ships usually triggers changes across numerous maritime databases.
With data provided by ship tracking site Marine Traffic, NK News analysis discovered 25 ships have changed from a Mongolian flag since Resolution 2270's passage in March.
Eight of the total were large oil tankers owned by Iranian organisations with no ties to North Korea (though themselves no strangers to maritime sanctions). Of the remainder, several had changed back to registries in their home countries, which are not open to foreign organizations, a measure that would prevent North Korea from using their flags.
Six remaining ships appear to have strong ties to North Korea or a network of paper companies based out of Hong Kong. The total falls short of Mongolia's claim of 14, but some changes may take longer to propagate through Marine Traffic's databases.
But reregistering a ship that another country has struck off could also be a breach of Resolution 2270 if the UN has not previously cleared the new registration.
But the Dawnlight's troubles did not end there. Despite changing its name and flag, the Marshall Islands authorities took action against Sinotug earlier this year.
"Ownership of a sanctioned vessel by a Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) business entity is against the policy of the RMI Registrar of Non-Resident Domestic Corporations and the intended use of an RMI registered business entity. Accordingly, Sinotug Shipping Limited was annulled on 27 April 2016," Laura Sherman from the country's shipping registry told NK News.
The continued measures against the Dawnlight – now called First Gleam – have likely reduced its options, but it is not idle. Despite the sanctions and designations, the ship broadcast its position earlier this week, skirting Japanese waters.
The vessel, along with others included in the UN's blacklist is likely limited to running cargoes between DPRK ports on either side of the Korean Peninsula.
Ambassador of Belarus S.Chepurnoy meets the Prime Minister of Mongolia
August 12 (Belarus MFA) On August 12, 2016 the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Belarus to Mongolia, Stanislav Chepurnoy, met with the Prime Minister of Mongolia, Jargaltulga Erdenebat.
During the meeting, the sides discussed a wide range of issues of bilateral cooperation, including the exchange of visits, prospects for interaction in the economic sphere, as well as the enhancement of legal framework.
Japan's Grassroots program to implement its 500th project in Mongolia
August 12 (gogo.mn) Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary from Japan to Mongolia Mr. T.Shimizu will sign documents of six projects to be implemented in scope of "The Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects". Also, ceremony to mark the implementation of 500th projects, within the Grassroots program since 1998 in Mongolia, will be held.
Government honored guests, governors of relevant aimags and districts will attend the ceremony while students receiving the grant of upcoming project will perform horse-fiddle concert.
The ceremony will take place in Embassy of Japan in Mongolia at 11:45AM.
Mongolia-Japan project on microorganisms to continue
Ulaanbaatar, August 12 (MONTSAME) Minister of the Environment and Tourism, Ms D.Oyunkhorol received Wednesday the President of the National Institute of Technology and Evaluation (NITE) of Japan, Mr Tatsumi Takashi. The NITE's Biological Resource Center along with the Institute of Biology of the Mongolian Academy of Sciences have been implementing the project on Ecology, Types and Utilization of Microorganisms of Mongolia for the past decade.
As a result of the project study, a list of microorganisms of Mongolia has been developed and the researchers found that there are over 8,000 types of microorganisms. The project leaders asked the Ministry to show more support on the continuity of this project.
The project implementation in Mongolia is led by Ando Katsuhiko, the Director of Biotechnology Development Center of the NITE. Minister D.Oyunkhorol pledged her and the ministry's support for the project and close collaboration.
The National Program of Activities for Conservation of Biological Species was adopted by the Government of Mongolia in 1996, and renewed in 2015. "It is important to maintain the policy continuity and coordination between ministries, agencies, academic institutes, local administrations, NGOs, companies and individuals, in order for the program to be successfully observed", noted the Minister.
The sides also exchanged opinions on reflecting the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization to the Convention on Biological Diversity in the collective agreement between the research institutes.
The observation of responsibilities before the international agreements and conventions on the environmental issues are different in countries, depending on their financial ability and human capacity.
However, the realization of three fundamental conventions of the United Nations – the conventions on climates change, biodiversity and desertification – are relatively well conducted in Mongolia.
Mongolia-Indian school to be established in UB
August 12 (gogo.mn) City Governor and City Mayor S.Batbold received Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary from India to Mongolia Mr. Suresh Babu and discussed on expanding the cooperation between two countries.
Mr. Suresh Babu noted "During the state visit of President of India Mr. Narenda Modi to Ulaanbaatar in 2015, parties agreed to educate 200 Mongolian students in India and establish Mongolia-Indian school. In regards, public administration employees are able to learn English language, information technology, finance and management.
Moreover, Indian Ambassador Mr. Suresh Babu requested to resolve Mahatma Gandhi street landscaping, attendance of artists to cultural events to be held in India and land for joint school.
City Mayor S.Batbold stated "First of all, I am truly satisfied to meet you. India and Mongolia have longstanding friendly relations in history and religion. In further, UB city will cooperate with Indian Embassy in many sectors and will develop broader relations. I would like to express that your requests are warmly welcomed. Number of streets and squares of UB city including Mahatma Gandhi street were landscaped in accordance with the 11th ASEM meeting. However, we will listen your comments on street landscaping and make it work. We will research on land for Mongolia-Indian joint school. Also, we are able to send our artists to cultural events to be held in your country".
"Student Soldiers -2016" program ends
August 12 (gogo.mn) "Student Soldiers" program has implemented nationwide since Apr, 2014.
"Student Soldiers-2016" program has ended successfully and the last shift showed respect to their country by taking an oath of loyalty at Chinggis square today.
The ceremony was attended by the President of Mongolia Ts.Elbegdorj. He noted "Today I see spark in your eyes and shine on your face. It seems that you have gained both physical and emotional strength. You are now able to overcome any challenges. Mongolia and the people of Mongolia are proud of having skilled and prepared soldiers".
More than 2500 students have involved in the program over the past three years.
Student soldiers take the oath – news.mn, August 12
President issues decree on promoting craftsmanship
Ulaanbaatar, August 12 (MONTSAME) On August 10, President of Mongolia Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj issued a decree on promoting craftsmanship, on the grounds provided in the Law on Culture. The decree dictates that a "Mongol Darkhan" (Mongolian craftsman) exhibition will take place every three years.
It also gives related government and non-government organizations to host the exhibition on July 15 of the respective one in each three years. The President appealed the press and media, national and international scholars, citizens, government agencies and NGOs to make their own contributions in preserving the traditional crafts art and inheriting the great culture, as well as passing them down to the next generations.
Mogi: Otgondalai lost his semifinal match early this morning and is left with bronze
D.Otgondalai to fight for bronze
August 12 (news.mn) Tomorrow (13th August), Mongolian boxer D.Otgondalai in the men's 60 kg category will fight Reda Benbaziz of Algeria. On 9th August, he claimed his first victory over Enrico La Cruz of the Netherlands, thus making it to the final eight D.Otgondalai has entered the final 16 by walkovers. The International Master of Sport and Asian Games gold medalist has been ranked 2nd in the world.
G.Gan-Erdene (men's 49 kg), N.Tuvshinbat (men's 69 kg) have been defeated and so their competitions are over. Overall 6 Mongolian boxers qualified at Rio-2016 Olympics.
M.Ankhtsetseg sets new record in Mongolian weightlifting
August 12 (news.mn) On the fifth day of the Olympics (10th August), world championships' gold and silver medalist M.Ankhtsetseg in the women's 69 kg category came eighth. Aged 18, M.Ankhtsetseg lifted total of 237 kg. It is a new record in Mongolian weightlifting athletes.
A total of 10 athletes competed in this category. China's Xiang Yanmei lifted 261 kg and won gold and Kazakhstan's Zhazira Zhapparkul (259 kg) silver . Sara Ahmed, an 18-year-old Egyptian weightlifter, won bronze in her 69-kilogram division, to become the first Arab woman to be presented with an Olympic medal in weightlifting. She is also the first Egyptian woman to win a medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Girls' soccer team heads to Japan for friendly matches
Ulaanbaatar, August 12 (MONTSAME) Mongolian girls' soccer team (under 14 years of age), trained by the Iki Yoji, left Ulaanbaatar today (August 12) for Japan to take part in friendly matches.
This is the first time in Mongolia's soccer history to send girls' team abroad. Seven other teams from Japan will attend the friendly matches, to take place on August 12-21 in Sendai.
Four Mongolian judges are travelling with the girls' team from the Mongolia Football Association, to share experiences with Japanese judges.
G.Nandinzaya ranks at 9th place in rifle category
Ulaanbaatar, August 12 (MONTSAME) Shooter G.Nandinzaya ranked at the Ninth place in the 31st Summer Olympic Games' 50m Rifle 3 positions category on August 11, earning 582 points.
This is the first Olympics for G.Nandinzaya, who is ending her game in Rio 2016 having ranked at 14th and 9th places in two respective categories, she took part in.
Sumo wrestling struggles to find a home base
By Nathan VanderKlippe
ULAN BATOR, August 12 (The Globe and Mail) The man once known as Maenoyu Taro has lost some weight since retiring from professional sumo wrestling. Once an imposing 170 kilograms, he has slimmed down to 150, a mere 330 pounds. It's not fighting weight, but still enough to fill out a bulky suit – and plenty to command the respect of the students he is training to join him as Mongolian sumo royalty.
History suggests their chances are good.
Sumo is woven deeply into the cultural fabric of Japan, where it has been played for centuries and still, to many, commands near-religious status. But today, no one dominates sumo as the Mongolians do.
Mongolian Asashoryu was once called the Tiger Woods of sumo – "The Japanese are no good," he told an interviewer – but even that descriptor has fallen flat next to fellow Mongolian Hakuho, who has used his towering 6-foot-4 frame to rampage through what remained of Japanese nationals in sumo's record books. Last year, Hakuho felled a 44-year-old record for total tournament championships, which had been held by the legendary Taiho, with 32 wins.
Hakuho has now taken 36 championship titles, cementing the Mongolian chokehold on sumo greatness. Today, the three wrestlers who hold the "yokozuna" champion title, sumo's highest rank, are all Mongolian. A Japanese wrestler has not held the title since 2000. Only one Japanese wrestler has won a professional tournament in the past decade.
Sumo has become Mongolia's game. The sport was once fuelled by impoverished Japanese strivers. But Japan is now a wealthy nation, and many youth have little incentive to enlist for the punishing training that sumo requires. It was into this void that Mongolians leapt. Herder children possessed the requisite hunger for riches and hardiness, after enduring poverty and brutally cold winters on the grasslands in traditional round gers, also known as yurts.
They "grew up in these harsh surroundings. I think that makes them tougher, and also able to adapt to new environments," said Maenoyu Taro, whose Mongolian name is Naranbat.
But wild success on sumo's greatest stage has done surprisingly little to kindle interest in sumo in the birth country of its greatest stars. Local television audiences for sumo have shrunk, even as Hakuho racked up wins. Only a single school in Mongolia provides professional sumo instruction: Kyokushu Beya, where Naranbat is now a coach. It only opened in September.
Japanese sumo stables today count 23 professional Mongolian wrestlers. But only 15 Mongolians currently wrestle in Japanese high schools, which often act as a sumo farm league, according to numbers compiled by Naranbat. In other words, the current crop of amateurs is smaller than the number of professionals, hardly an indication of massive interest.
It's as if the top players for the New York Yankees were British – titans in a sport their own countrymen scarcely care about, said Mark Buckton, an amateur sumo wrestler turned columnist in Japan who is among the best-versed foreigners in the sport.
"There is almost no sumo in Mongolia," he said. What that likely means is that the Mongolian sumo reign, "is ending now." When the current champions retire, "there's maybe one other guy who has a chance in the future. There's just nobody below that."
Or as Naranbat puts it, "In Mongolia we are a wrestling country" – just not a sumo wrestling one. Parents send children to learn traditional Mongolian wrestling, or other forms, such as freestyle or judo.
Sumo, meanwhile, has struggled.
"There are not many amateur sumo wrestling tournaments in Mongolia," said Naranbat, who, like many Mongolians, goes by one name.
Part of the reason lies in the nature of sumo itself, which is as much a culture as a sport. "If you enter sumo, you are supposed to become sumo," said Katrina Watts, a former sumo commentator for Japanese broadcaster NHK who is president of the Australian Sumo Federation and still does stadium announcing at international competitions.
"You have to fit in, you have to learn the language and learn the culture and be part of it."
For many sumo wrestlers, that means leaving behind the culture they were born into.
The first foreign-born sumo champion, Hawaiian Chad Rowan – better known by his sumo name Akebono – became a Japanese citizen, was briefly engaged to a Japanese television personality and made a conscious effort to distance himself from his Hawaiian roots, declining offers of food and goods from home when he first joined sumo. He once said he wanted others to see him "not as a foreigner but just as a wrestler gaining promotion."
Mongolian Asashoryu bucked the trend by cultivating a bad-boy image. His flouting of some sumo traditions won him condemnation in Japan, but adoration at home. Hakuho, however, is a sumo wrestler with a Japanese wife who many Mongolians see as no longer one of them.
Sumo itself has sought to limit foreign influence of foreign wrestlers, with a long-standing policy limiting sumo stables to just one non-Japanese wrestler.
In Mongolia, meanwhile, some of the ingredients for sumo success are vanishing. The herder population is rapidly declining. Once heavily nomadic, Mongolia's population is today nearly as urban as Germany.
Still, Naranbat has begun coaching sumo in hopes of keeping the flame alive at home. Twenty students are now enrolled, after four recently left to join high-school programs in Japan. The Mongolian Sumo Association pays all of their costs. "I hope more kids will come to the school and sumo will be developed in Mongolia," Naranbat said.
His best current prospect is Mendsaikhan, a 100-kilogram buzz-cut 18-year-old who has been sumo wrestling since the age of eight. "Asashoryu influenced a lot of kids," he said. "I want to be an amateur champion, and then go pro in Japan."
On a recent afternoon, Naranbat watched carefully as Mendsaikhan sparred with an older wrestler. They slapped and grunted as they heaved at each other. "You were a bit slow on the tachi-ai," the explosive initial charge, Naranbat counsels after Mendsaikhan gets thrown out of the ring. Then, when the student wins a bout, he encourages him to keep pushing with his head. "It's a good technique. Use that more often," Naranbat said.
Parked outside the gym lay the kind of prizes his young charge might one day strive for: a Bentley, Hummer and Greyhound-sized RV that are the spoils of Naranbat's sumo career.
To replicate that success, Mendsaikhan is studying Japanese and trains more than four hours a day.
But even he is hedging his bets. Only half his training is in sumo. The remainder is in judo, a sport that, in Mongolia, mints real glory. In 2008, judoka Naidangiin Tuvshinbayar won Mongolia's first Olympic gold medal, instantly making him a national hero.
"Mongolia won judo in Beijing. People know about that and send their kids to judo," Mendsaikhan said.
Judo and sumo do not occupy exclusive worlds: wrestlers trained in other disciplines can conquer sumo, too. In fact, some attribute Mongolian sumo success to the fact wrestlers such as Kyokushuzan, one of the first to become a Japanese sumo professional, began with Mongolian wrestling, and used that background to bring new techniques and concepts to sumo.
Many Mongolian children nonetheless dream of their own country's wrestling mats, rather than the sumo ring.
Even Naranbat acknowledges sumo might be better off with less Mongolian success. A few more wins by Japanese wrestlers might be good for the sport in Japan, where waning television ratings and thin tournament crowds have reflected a diminishing appeal.
"I'm worried that Mongolians are too dominant," Naranbat said. "I'm thinking if a Japanese wrestler starts really competing with these Mongolian champions, then its popularity will rise."
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