Kırkpınar Oil Wrestling Tournament

Where: Turkey

When: Month of June

About: Kırkpınar is a Turkish oil wrestling tournament. It is held annually, usually in late June, near Edirne, Turkey since 1346. Before each bout, the wrestlers pour olive oil over their entire bodies, and the matches take place in an open, grassy field, with the contestants naked except for trousers made of leather, which extend to just below the knee. Victory is achieved when one wrestler either pins the other to the ground (as in many other forms of wrestling) or lifts his opponent above his shoulders. It now holds a Guinness World Record for the longest running sports competition. It has many rituals from the invitation stage to the award ceremony.

The Kırkpınar Oil Wrestling Festival was proclaimed throughout the world when it was added to UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2010 on behalf of our country. A book about the Kırkpınar wrestling competitions entitled Pehlivan (The Wrestler) was released by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in 2011 to ensure that the tradition is learned and passed down from generation to generation.

History: The history of oil wrestling links back to 2650 BC with evidence from Ancient Egypt, Assyria, and other regions in the Middle East. The Babylonian body of evidence, a tiny bronze, was excavated near the Chafadji-temple. The bronze clearly concerns oil wrestlers as both athletes are depicted with olive vessels on their head. The oldest known proof of the existence of oil-wrestling in Ancient Egypt is found in limestone from the tomb of Ptahhoteb from the fifth dynasty (about 2650 BC) from the same period as the Chafadji-bronze. Another appealing proof is about 4000 years old and painted like a cartoon in a tomb near Beni hasan in Egypt. The deceased, who occupied this tomb, is assumed to have been a famous oil-wrestler in his time.From this the basic rules of the sport can be traced. Centuries later, the Persian Empire conquered Egypt, and the Persian shah occupied the throne of the Pharoah. It was during this period that oil wrestling began in Iran.

The Historic Kırkpınar Wrestling competitions last for seven days and are generally held at the end of June, beginning of July. The festival begins on Friday when prayers are said for the wrestlers. The wrestling contests are held at a field in Sarayiçi, which is one of Edirne’s most  important recreational destinations. The winning wrestler earns the title of Chief Wrestler and the golden belt for one year, a very prestigious prize. A wrestler who earns the Chief Wrestler title for three consecutive years becomes the permanent owner of the golden belt.

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