Kırkpınar Governor Calls on Former Champion to Quit Reality Show

After derogatory remarks were aimed at Ismail Balaban by another contestant on Survivor Turkey, the agha of Kırkpınar thinks the former champions should leave in protest.
Photo: Turkish Wrestling Federation
Mar. 25, 2021
Daniel Dawson

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The agha – or gov­er­nor – of the his­toric Kırkpınar olive oil wrestling tour­na­ment has called on one of its for­mer cham­pi­ons to leave a Turkish real­ity tele­vi­sion show after deroga­tory remarks were made toward him.

Occasional actor and pro­fes­sional trans­la­tor Uğurtan Dora report­edly insulted for­mer Kırkpınar cham­pion Ismail Balaban dur­ing the film­ing of the pop­u­lar Survivor Turkey tele­vi­sion show.

Though Balaban has applied to the show with his own will, we do not accept such remarks for Turkey’s başpehli­van. Kırkpınar oil wrestling is our ances­tral sport. We openly say that we are on Balaban’s side.- Turkish Wrestling Federation, 

You are a fool. You can only dance like a drag queen,” footage from the pro­gram showed Dora say­ing to Balaban.

In response, Seyfettin Selim, the main spon­sor and orga­nizer of the tour­na­ment, called on Balaban to leave the pro­gram.

See Also: With Wrestling Match Canceled, Kırkpınar Sponsor Invests in Local Education

Don’t demean your­self in that show. You are Turkey’s başpehli­van [head oil wrestler],” Selim report­edly said. Leave the show and come back. Do not buckle under dis­re­spect­ful remarks.”

I will give you the exact money you earn from that show,” he added, acknowl­edg­ing the finan­cial ben­e­fits of com­pet­ing in Survivor Turkey, which pits nor­mal” peo­ple against Turkish celebri­ties.

This sea­son, the win­ning con­tes­tant will receive $500,000 (€423,000). By com­par­i­son, the win­ning wrestler at the Kırkpınar tour­na­ment receives about $9,000 (€7,600).

The Turkish Wrestling Federation also weighed in on the issue, crit­i­ciz­ing Dora for his remarks but stop­ping short of ask­ing Balaban to leave the com­pe­ti­tion cur­rently being filmed in the Dominican Republic.

Uğurtan Dora used ugly remarks about İsmail Balaban. Though Balaban has applied to the show with his own will, we do not accept such remarks for Turkey’s başpehli­van,” the fed­er­a­tion said in a state­ment. Kırkpınar oil wrestling is our ances­tral sport. We openly say that we are on Balaban’s side.”

Balaban defeated Orhan Okulu, a two-time cham­pion him­self, in 2017 at the 656th edi­tion of the com­pe­ti­tion.

Kırkpınar is widely con­sid­ered the world’s old­est sport and was rec­og­nized more than 10 years ago as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage event. An esti­mated two tons of olive oil are used to cover the wrestlers each year.

According to leg­end, the first edi­tion took place in 1357 when a group of Ottoman sol­diers stopped near Erdine and start­ing wrestling to pass the time. After the rest of the sol­diers stopped, the final two con­tin­ued wrestling into the night and both were found dead in the morn­ing.

From 1357 until 2020, the event was held on an annual basis. However, the COVID-19 pan­demic led offi­cials to orig­i­nally delay and then can­cel the 659th edi­tion of the event.

There are pre­lim­i­nary plans to go ahead with the com­pe­ti­tion in July, but offi­cials acknowl­edged that this would largely depend on the course of the pan­demic.





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