Traditional Kırkpınar Oil Wrestling competition kicks off in northwest Turkey

Traditional Kırkpınar Oil Wrestling competition kicks off in northwest Turkey

EDİRNE – Doğan News Agency
Traditional Kırkpınar Oil Wrestling competition kicks off in northwest Turkey The traditional Kırkpınar Oil Wrestling competition, Turkey’s longest running sports event, starts this week for a 656th time in the northwestern province of Edirne.

The event is expected to attract local and international tourists from July 14 to July 16. 

More than 2,000 wrestlers will take part in this year’s event, while the number of “chief wrestlers,” called “başpehlivan” in Turkish, attending has increased to 62 from last year’s 56.

The Kırkpınar Oil Wrestling is recognized as a cultural heritage by UNESCO and is believed to be one of the oldest sports in the world, having been practiced since the middle ages in the Balkans. 

Media representatives, artists and celebrities from Turkey and around the world, as well as millions of spectators, will attend this year’s event, which includes an array of activities. 

The wrestlers wear tight, short, leather pants called “kıspet,” made of water ox leather, and lather their bodies with olive oil before the bouts begin.

Not a Golden Belt year 

According to Kırkpınar rules, a wrestler has to win the “Kırkpınar Chief Wrestler” title for three successive years in order to win the “Golden Belt” forever. Recep Kara was the chief wrestler last year and is hoping to triumph for a second successive year.

However, Kara will face a tough competition from regulars such as Orhan Okulu, İsmail Balaban, Fatih Atlı, Ali Gürbüz, Mehmet Yeşil Yeşil and Hamza Köseoğlu. 

The head of the Turkish Wrestling Federation, Musa Aydın, said Kırkpınar is the top oil wrestling event in the world. 

“I invite our all citizens to watch these exciting wrestling matches. I wish success to all our wrestlers who will participate to the tournament,” Aydın said.

He also recalled that this yeat’s event covers the first anniversary of the July 15, 2016 military coup attempt in Turkey. 

According to historical sources, the 40 soldiers who were vanguards of Ottoman forward units in campaigns in the Balkans used to wrestle during break. 

In one legendary story, two brothers, Ali and Selim, could not defeat each other for hours in Ahıköy near Edirne and both ended up dying from the exertion. The legend says their colleagues then buried them under a willow tree before heading out on their campaign. Years later, they visited their friend’s graves, where they found a spring instead. The name of “Kırkpınar” (Forty Springs) is though to derive from this legend.