3rd biennial World Nomad Games in Kyrgyzstan: smoke-free

WHO/Almaz Zhumaliev

For the first time in its history, the World Nomad Games were declared a smoke-free event. The third edition of the games was hosted by Kyrgyzstan on 2–8 September 2018.

In Kyrgyzstan, nearly half of the male population smoke and it is one of the leading causes of heart disease and stroke in the country. In addition, Kyrgyzstan has the highest premature mortality rate from cardiovascular diseases in the WHO European Region, the second-highest death rate from cerebrovascular diseases and the third-highest death rate from ischemic heart disease.

The introduction of the smoke-free initiative during the 3rd World Nomad Games provides a unique opportunity to leave a long-lasting and sustainable public health message for the host community and country.

The Games gathered more than 3000 competitors from over 70 countries and attracted thousands to its matches and fan fests. Millions of people watched 37 types of traditional nomad games on television all around the world – providing an ideal platform to promote healthy behaviours in the local population and far beyond.

In this context, the WHO Country Office in Kyrgyzstan provided technical advice and assistance to the Ministry of Health on developing the smoke-free concept and an action plan, which were approved by the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic.

Well-supported smoke-free initiative

The creation of a healthy, tobacco-free environment during the 3rd World Nomad Games fits into the context of the country’s anti-smoking policy to strengthen Kyrgyzstan’s position in the fight against tobacco.

“The smoke-free initiative during the 3rd World Nomad Games will positively affect the image of Kyrgyzstan as a country for which public health is a high priority,” said Dr Jarno Habicht, WHO Representative in Kyrgyzstan. “The World Nomad Games are considered to be ancient sporting games that require concentration and strong will. Competitors, as well as ordinary visitors, should not be disturbed by smoking during the Games.”

Working in collaboration, the Ministry of Health, the Republican Centre for Health Promotion and the WHO Country Office in Kyrgyzstan conducted an information campaign via local media outlets about the smoke-free initiative. Local village health committees determined places where smoking is not allowed, equipped with a special “no smoking” sign, and installed tobacco-related banners in the sport complexes in Cholpon-Ata and Kyrchyn Gorge.

The smoke-free initiative covers all indoor and outdoor spaces within sport stadiums, except in designated outdoor smoking areas. Advertising and sale of tobacco products is also banned at match sites and at fan zones, as well as in cafes and restaurants situated near and in the sport complexes.

In order to better enhance the smoke-free initiative, WHO conducted a number of trainings for Games secretariat staff, volunteers, medical workers and policemen on the smoking ban, the reasons behind it and on informing participants and visitors about the ban.

WHO contributed to the 3rd World Nomad Games not only with the smoke-free initiative, but also through mass gathering simulation exercises and emergency preparedness drills, which helped the national authorities to strengthen health security and to increase national capacity in order to minimize health risks during the Games.

WHO provided technical assistance and financial support for the activities of the 3rd World Nomad Games smoke-free initiative in accordance with the biennial collaborative agreement for 2018–2019 between the Ministry of Health of Kyrgyzstan and WHO.