The traditional Kırkpınar Oil Wrestling competition, which is considered Turkey’s longest-running sports event, will start this weekend for the 660th time in the northwestern province of Edirne after a year of hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nearly 3,000 wrestlers across the country will take part in this year’s event, which is expected to attract local and international tourists from July 9 to July 11, according to Edirne Mayor Recep Gürkan.
As of today, just like back in the old days, an orchestra will begin making announcements about the grand opening of the festival that is soon to start, beating their giant drums and playing zurna while walking around the streets of the historic city.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all participants will be required to submit a negative PCR test done within the last 48 hours, or else they will not be allowed to enter the competition.
Tracing its roots back to the 14th century, 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.
In traditional oil wrestling, wrestlers wear leather pants, rub olive oil on their bodies and tackle each other on grass fields to be the last man standing to earn the title of “Chief Wrestler” (Başpehlivan) and the right to wear the prestigious golden belt for a year.
According to Kırkpınar rules, a wrestler has to win the chief wrestler title for three successive years in order to win the golden belt forever.
Hurriyet Daily News