Warriors from four ranches will lay down their spears, pick up a javelin, and come together to compete in the first ever Maasai Olympics this weekend. The exciting event will take place at the Kimana group ranch, close to Amboseli National Park in Kenya. I recently spent a memorable couple of nights close by in the Selenkay conservancy at the Porini Amboseli camp. I was in the company of several Maasai guides throughout my stay and also visited a traditional Maasai village. I was treated to some impressive spear throwing demonstrations, as well as incredible jumping prowess by the young men, so I can speak from experience that this event will be extremely entertaining and well worth following.
Regional competitions have been taking place over the past few months at various Maasai villages in the run up to the main event. The Maasai Olympics will be held on 22 December, 2012, entry is free and the games begin at 9 am. Dress code is traditional Maasai, so bring your beads. The events and competitions were introduced to encourage young Maasai warriors to show off their strength in sporting events, rather than the more traditional lion hunt.
The "Lion Guardians" also operate in this region, and there have been many successful projects to encourage the Maasai to become conservationists, despite the pressures on their land and livestock, while maintaining most of their traditions.
The Maasai Olympics are another creative way to encourage traditional communities to think differently about wildlife conservation and the important role they play in its success.
The main Olympic events are: Rungu (traditional wooden club) throwing, javelin, running (200m and 5,000m) and vertical jumping (Maasai style). The main prizes include a prize breeding bull, a four year university scholarship, and trip to New York to compete in the 2013 marathon. The guest of honor will be none other than Maasai hero and running legend David Rudisha, the record-breaking winner of the 800 metres at this year's London Olympics.
Image of Maasai man throwing a spear -- © Anouk Zijlma