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Polo, Iran’s Ancient Sport Becomes International




18 September 2005



Iran is trying to register its' 3000-year-old polo as its first Iranian sport on the UNESCO List of Intangible Heritage.

According to Houman Bagheri Fakhr, secretary of the Polo Federation of Iran, regarding the value of the game, which dates back to 3000 years ago, in the ancient Persia, the federation is trying to make it international and introduce it to the world through its registration on UNESCO List of Intangible Heritage.

“Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization of Iran is planning for registration of polo, after the registration of the intangible heritage of nomads” says Mohamad Mirshokrae, director of Iran’s Anthropology Research Center.

According to Mirshokrae, first of all Iran should introduce the game to the people, and let them know that that Iran is the pioneer of polo in the world, then the process for the registration would surely be speed up.

“Although most of the countries in the world play the game, but its history goes back to ancient Persia; especially during the Sasanid era, Polo was a very common game”, says Mirshokrae.

To familiarize people with the game and expand it, the Anthropology Research Center of the Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization of Iran with the cooperation of the Polo Federation have held 2 polo cups so far and the first ever Women polo tournament just a few days ago in Tehran.

Polo is not just limited to Iran, and in some countries such as Pakistan and the United Kingdom is a popular game. For the registration of previous shared intangible heritage such as Nowruz, Iran filed with the other countries sharing the heritage, but for registration of polo, nothing has yet been decided.

In response to the question of whether polo’s file will be handed as an independent file or as a shared one, Mirshokrae told CHN, “Polo has a special situation, on one hand its roots are in Iran, and on the other hand, nowadays it is more popular in other countries. We have not yet decided in the Anthropology Research Center what to do, and we have to study the case and situation more carefully.”

Based on historical evidence, polo was the first Iranian game which was introduced to countries around the world later on. Some research date it back to 4000 years before the Christ, and some other believe that it dates back to 500 years before the Christ.

What is clear is that polo goes back to at least 2000 years ago, and has its root in Ancient Persia. The game is known as the “Game of the Kings” in the east. Until 1936 polo was among Olympic competitions, but by the end of the Second World War, the glorious time of polo came to an end.

The international federation of Polo was used to be in Buenos Aires, but it has been transferred to Beverly Hills, California, US. The federation has 48 members from all over the world.

The word polo itself is a Tibetan word which means ball. In Argentina, polo is a very popular game and it is broadcasted on TV and radio without any commercials. There exists some 275 polo clubs in the United States of America and some 3500 people play the game. The special interest of Americans in polo increased after United States won the World Cup of Polo in 1989 in Berlin. Today, US invests more than 25 billion dollars in the game every year.




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