The Silk Road Olympics

Most Corrupt Country? Vainest Dictator? Grimmest Long-Drops? These are the Olympic medals that no country wants to win, but I will hand them out anyway. Welcome to The Silk Road Olympics! Having completed a three-month road-trip along a large section of the fabled Silk Road, I deem myself worthy of conducting the most crooked awards ceremony since Russia last hosted anything. The entrants for the inaugural Silk Road games include the aforementioned Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Armenia, Georgia, Turkey and Bulgaria. Good luck to one and all!

Most Corrupt Country

Gold – Kyrgyzstan          Silver – Russia          Bronze – Uzbekistan

Good day folks! My name is Jack Rees, I am your commentator for this years’ games, and we begin with the Most Corrupt Country event. Big congratulations to Kyrgyzstan on the first medal awarded at these Olympics, and it was an absolute no contest! They destroyed the opposition with a police force that demands bribes like no other. Once being pulled over four times in one day, the local bobbies have no problem inventing a wide array of different crimes in order extract as much cash as they can from unwitting passers-by.

Kyrgyz Som, US Dollars, Euros, Pounds, Malawian Kwacha, they have no qualms taking whatever you got! They have perfected the skill of persistence, and always give 110% when lining their pockets. The currency exchanges in the capital are also excellent at tricking tourists, with confusing conversions and slight-of-hand. Fantastic victory, and a great start to the Games!

P.S. No bribes were taken in the awarding of this event…

Vainest Dictator

Gold – Kazakhstan          Silver – Tajikistan          Bronze – Iran

A highly competitive contest, and many dictators put on a fantastic show! This was mainly judged on the sheer number of times of you would see a dictator’s rotund face during the course of a day – either on posters, billboards, coffee cups or adorning the sides of palaces. Third-placed Iran and second-placed Tajikistan were absolutely superb in this regard. Hassan Rouhani was plastered all over Tehran, whilst Tajik leader Emomali Rahmon could be spotted on banners on almost every street corner, walking through gardens of beautiful flowers, or visiting sick children in hospital, or threatening his rivals with public execution – thoroughly deserved silver!

Those methods are all well and good, but not good enough to top Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan! Leader of the country since 1991 (and winning a recent ‘election’ with 98% of the vote), Nazarbayev has had plenty of time to put his face out there, and boy has he done that! Moving the capital to Astana in 1998, he quickly moulded the small town into a bustling capital in his image. With two universities and countless schools named in his honour, as well as a colossal park dedicated entirely to himself, he has taken dictatorial narcissism to the next level! To top it all off, the Bayterek Tower (the jewel and pride of Kazakhstan) was built in celebration of his presidency, and features “a gilded hand-print of Nazarbayev mounted in an ornate pedestal” at the summit. A plaque invites visitors to place their hand in the imprint and make a wish. Now that is gold medal worthy!

Grimmest Long-Drops

Gold – Bulgaria          Silver – Mongolia          Bronze – Russia

Another closely-fought event, with several nations throwing their hats into the ring (and cleanliness out of the window) when it came to their outdoor toilets. In the hinterlands of Siberia and the Mongolian Steppe, one could forgive coming across a flimsy, rotting shack, swarming with dung flies and overflowing with faeces, for that is to be expected. But, what about inside the great and grand European Union?

Congratulations to Bulgaria! You couldn’t care less how much money you receive from the E.U. to maintain your outdoor facilities, or what other nations thinks about you, or where the hell you excrete. Your long-drops are simply disgusting. Well done to all involved! Let’s see if you can defend your title in four years!

Loneliest Border Guards

Gold – Tajikistan          Silver – Uzbekistan          Bronze – Mongolia

Tough event to call as two countries immediately stood out from the crowd, but for very different reasons. Silver medallists Uzbekistan boast some incredibly lonely border guards along the Tajik border, as it is almost impossible for locals from either country to cross into the other (they had a major dispute over a disqualification in the ‘Deepest Pot-Hole’ event a few years back). This means that they only see the odd tourist here and there, and have plenty of time on their hands! Our crossing took almost four hours as all eight border guards assisted in removing and checking every single item from our vehicle – even going through the photos on our cameras, laptops and phones. Great effort boys!

Well, the Tajik border guards stationed at over four thousand metres in the Pamir Mountains know a very different type of lonesomeness. Cooped up in Soviet-era rusting containers-come-houses, the guards up here were high in more ways than one. Simply overjoyed to see other humans, one incredibly-baked border guard invited us into his smoke-filled container to sample his watermelon. Eyes bloodshot and bulging as he carved us a piece, he complained that the altitude was driving him insane. I will take your word for it my good man, and give you a gold medal for your efforts (and your fabulous pot-smoked-fruit).

Most Aggressive Street Sellers

Gold – Turkey          Silver – Iran          Bronze – Kyrgyzstan

What can be said about the Turkish Olympic Aggressive Street Sellers team that has not already been said? Quite a lot in actual fact. We’ve all been on trips there and experienced them in training, possibly in the bazaars of Istanbul, or on the stalls along the sun-drenched beaches of Anatolia: “My friend! My friend! Please look at my Malvin Klein underwear! For you, I do very cheap price!”

Textbook Turkey. Their display at the games resulted in them taking the gold by some margin. However, if Iran’s suicidal motorway bottled-water-sellers keep it up for the next four years, we could see a changing of the guard next time around! Stay tuned!

Most Suicidal Roads

Gold – Mongolia          Silver – Uzbekistan          Bronze – Russia

The showpiece event at this year’s Silk Road Olympic Games, everyone wanted a piece of the podium in this one! It was almost a blanket finish, but three countries dipped in front at the line. Russia deserve a mention for sheer endurance in this event, having roads that simply go on and on and on – sometimes two thousand kilometres between towns (yes, I’m talking about you Khabarovsk-Chita). Uzbekistani roads are nowhere near as long, but gave us our second puncture, and are thus awarded with second-place.

But in gold medal position (this will please the hordes here), is Mongolia! Well, once you leave the capital and head in any direction, their roads sort of cease to exist, and you’re on your own. Hundreds of kilometres with no asphalt, dirt-track, or even any sign of a road at all – you better pray that your sat-nav is carrying you over the correct crag. As a reward for giving us our first puncture, and our first sense of hopelessness, Mongolian ‘roads’ (or lack of) take the prized gold medal! Fantastic result!

Final Medal Table & Closing Ceremony

1st – Mongolia (1 Gold, 1 Silver, 1 Bronze)
2nd – Tajikistan (1 Gold, 1 Silver)
3rd – Kyrgyzstan (1 Gold, 1 Bronze)
Tied 4th – Bulgaria (1 Gold)
Tied 4th – Kazakhstan (1 Gold)
Tied 4th – Turkey (1 Gold)
7th – Uzbekistan (2 Silvers, 1 Bronze)
8th – Russia (1 Silver, 2 Bronze)
9th – Iran (1 Silver, 1 Bronze)

No Medals – Armenia, Azerbaijan & Georgia

Well that concludes the first (and if we don’t receive emergency funding in the next few days, last) Silk Road Olympic Games. Mongolia come out winners, followed closely by Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, and it was the state of their toilets that made all the difference – how many times have we said that before? No doubt, all other nations will learn from this, and come back with more competitive long-drops next time.

As for the losers, the Caucuses (Armenia, Azerbaijan & Georgia) came away with no medals – something someone will no doubt lose their job over. Although, you may want to take a holiday there now before they climb back up the medal table – just a thought. We hope you’ve had a ball, and enjoyed being a part of the games, just as much as the world-class competitors. I’ve been Jack Rees. See you at the next games in Mongolia!

If you can find the road…

J

 

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