August 25, 2008. I didn’t see it, but I heard it. Everybody heard it. On the last day of the Olympics, Mongolia won its second gold medal. When Badar-Uugan Enkhbat, a 23-year old boxer, slammed Cuba on Sunday afternoon, Ulaanbaatar simply erupted. It seemed that the entire city celebrated: shouting, cheering, honking horns, and flag-waving. Young men stood on moving cars, holding flags, and somehow managing to keep their balance.
It is wonderful to see the entire country so happy. Ten days ago, when Tuvshinbayar Naidan won the gold in judo, the entire country celebrated its first-ever Olympic gold. The second gold medal puts Mongolia either at or near first place in gold medals per capita. Chuck Culpepper pointed out in the Los Angeles Times that for Mongolia, with only 2.9 million people, to win gold means much more than the United States or China, with their large populations, to win their 30+ gold medals. Spot on.
This is a good time for optimism in Mongolia. A new Parliament has been elected, and it will be making important decisions that will affect Mongolia’s economic development for decades to come. How Mongolia manages its vast resources, including the gold under the ground, will make all the difference to the future of the country.
The celebrations lasted all night. It kept me from sleeping, and as a result I will be dragging butt all day today. But it doesn’t really matter, because it is wonderful to witness such a historic moment and see the joy on every face.