Thursday, August 4 2022

Olympic champion and holder of the elite rank of “national elephant” (улсын заан) Naidangiin Tüvshinbayar in traditional Mongolian wrestling attire. Cropped screenshot of the hero.e Entertainment YouTube Channel

On June 9, 2022, the Khan-Uul district court in the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar sentenced judoka champion and former president of the Mongolian National Olympic Committee (MNOC) Naidangiin Tüvshinbayar to 16 years in prison for the brutal murder of his childhood friend and a fellow judoka Erdenebilegiin Enkhbatending a legal saga that has held the nation in awe for more than a year.

After becoming the first Mongol to win an Olympic gold medal at Beijing 2008 and later at London 2012, the first Mongolian Olympic multi-medallist, Tüvshinbayar was destined to become famous in a country that traditionally worships wrestlersand its success, according to Reuters, “prompted the leaders of the warring parties to join thousands of revelers in the streets to celebrate their champion.” Indeed, he quickly became known as the person whose victory helped Mongolia break the parliamentary deadlock between the rivals of the Democratic Party and the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRP) after post-election violence who claimed the lives of five people in July 2008, while CNN would generously recognize him as the sports legend who single-handedly sparked the country’s interest in judo.

As well as being decorated with the country’s highest professional and sporting honors and titles, including Hero of the Order of Labor (Хөдөлмөрийн баатар), he quickly became one of Mongolia’s most prominent media icons, appearing in Pepsi ads and, of course, politics. campaigns, as his fame as a “unifier of the Mongols in troubled times” continued. So he became the campaign promoter of Democratic Party presidential candidate Khaltmaagiin Battulgaa former world champion wrestler, who will eventually win the elections in 2017 in the second round with a narrow margin of 50.6%. Besides being an outlandish and controversial politician and businessman, who named his group of companies “Genco”, in reference to the name of the Corleone family business in “The Godfather”, as well as the constructor of the largest equestrian statue in the worldBattulga was also the President of the Mongolian Judo Federationso much so that the successes of Mongolian judokas, including the Olympic triumph of Tüvshinbayar, are often attributed to him.

Mongolian President Khaltmaagiin Battulga (right) awards Naidangiin Tüvshinbayar (left) the Order of Chinggis Khaan. Ulaanbaatar, November 19, 2017. Screenshot from YouTube Channel Battulga Khaltmaa

Already before the 2017 presidential elections, Tüvshinbayar was considered the protege and close associate of Battulga and the Democratic Party, so in 2016 he, a native of Zavkhan province, participated in the legislative elections in the province of Bayankhongor in southwestern Mongolia, the traditional constituency of the future president, for scandalously lose by a margin of 98 votes. A few weeks later, he gave up his bid for the third Olympic medal by losing in the first round at Rio 2016, and this failure was largely linked to his involvement in the electoral campaign and the neglect of his sports duties. In 2020, he was about to take part in legislative elections again from the same district, but instead ran as the sole candidate for the presidency of the Mongolian National Olympic Committee with the support of the country’s president, and was elected by a wide 94.6 percent. Interestingly, in February 2022, he was appointed adviser to current Prime Minister Luvsannamsrain Oyun-Erdenewho, by the way, is the chairman of the rival Mongolian People’s Party.

However, after his patron became president of Mongolia, Tüvshinbayar was accused of being a bully while gaining notoriety for his heavy drinking. Prior to the fatal brawl in 2021, he was involved in at least three cases of physical violenceone of them on the eve of the 2017 presidential elections. The future the president had to deny it and even defended Tüvshinbayar in a public interview while voting:

Юу гэж тийм юм байхав дээ. Тэр чин таа нар одоо, тийм юуманд үнэмшдэгээ болих хэрэгтэй. Түвшинбаяр аварга хүн зодох нь байтугай хүнд гар хүрэхгүй.

How could this be possible? You should stop believing in such things. Not only would champion Tüvshinbayar never beat anyone, he would never touch anyone.

The president would be wrong. On April 2, 2021, while meeting with some prominent Democratic Party figures from his home province of Zavkhan, including the provincial governor, president and city council representatives, an intoxicated Tüvshinbayar attacked and beat his friend childhood and a promising star of Mongolian music. fight (үндэсний бөх), the holder of the rank of “national hawk” (улсын начин), Erdenebilegiin Enkhbat, after allegedly knock him out with a heavy object. Suffering from numerous traumas and severe brain damage, Enkhbat died in a South Korean clinic on December 24, 2021. at the age of 37, without regaining consciousness.

Photo: A final tribute to the late E. Enkhbat, the promising falcon of Mongolia

After the bloody assault, many were reluctant to openly blame the legendary athlete, as was the case with Prime Minister Oyun-Erdene, who stated bluntly that he was “inappropriate for him to say whether Tüvshinbayar was right or wrong”, praising, nevertheless, his “glorious” actions in uniting the nation during the time of troubles. Now, more than a year after the heinous attack, the legendary hero who brought honor to the nation is slowly but surely transforming into a national villain, taking with him the political reputation of former President Battulga.

Meanwhile, according to Data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Mongolia has one of the worst homicide rates in Asia, varying annually between 7.24 and 5.98 (per 100,000 population) between 2014 and 2020, compared to 6.66 for Afghanistan (2018), 3.23 for Kazakhstan (2020) and 2.19 for Kyrgyzstan (2018). In Europe, only Russia has a higher homicide rate of 10.7 (2020). According to World Health Organization (WHO) data on homicides, in 2019, 197 intentional homicides were recorded in Mongolia, compared to 90 in Georgia, a country with a compatible population. According official national statistical datathe number of criminal acts causing death (intentional and unintentional homicides, accidents, suicides and incitement to suicide) increased by 17.3%, from 382 in 2020 to 448 in 2021. According to a parliamentary report, between 70 and 80% of intentional murders in the country are committed under the influence of alcohol. What is even more alarming, for the first six months of 2022, the the overall crime rate in Mongolia has increased by 89.9% compared to the same period of 2021.

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