With Wrestling Match Canceled, Kırkpınar Sponsor Invests in Local Education

Seyfettin Selim has invested in a state-of-the-art nursery school and daycare in Edirne. He plans to have the school ready to open in time for the 659th edition of Kırkpınar.
Photo courtesy of Seyfettin Selim (second from the right)
Oct. 8, 2020
Daniel Dawson

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The cur­rent and longest-serv­ing agha – or gov­er­nor – of Turkey’s his­toric Kırkpınar olive oil wrestling tour­na­ment has announced an invest­ment in the local province’s edu­ca­tion sys­tem, Turkish daily, Habertürk, reports.

Seyfettin Selim, the patron and main spon­sor of the old­est con­tin­u­ously run­ning sport­ing event in the world, has invested in a state-of-the-art nurs­ery school and day­care cen­ter in the city of Edirne, which has hosted Kirkpinar since 1924.

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You can mea­sure many things in the devel­op­ment of cities. You can take roads, parks, build­ings,” Edirne mayor Recep Gürkan was quoted as say­ing by Habertürk. But the cri­te­ria for the devel­op­ment of coun­tries are cer­tain. The pri­mary of these is edu­ca­tion, cul­ture and art.”

No road, no green space and no bridge will carry nations to the future. The invest­ment you will make is an invest­ment in edu­ca­tion, an invest­ment in cul­ture and art,” he added. Today, we are happy to bring this pre­cious edu­ca­tion home to our city, which will raise my dear brother Seyfettin Selim and our chil­dren in line with the prin­ci­ples and light of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk [the founder of mod­ern-day Turkey].”

Selim said at the event that he intended to have the facil­ity up and run­ning in time for the 659th edi­tion of the Kırkpınar tour­na­ment, which was meant to take place this sum­mer before being can­celled as a result of the COVID-19 pan­demic.

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While no for­mal date has been set, the six-cen­tury-old event has his­tor­i­cally taken place in the first two weeks of July with thou­sands of wrestlers gath­er­ing in Edirne to com­pete to become the başpehli­van, or head wrestler.

Wearing only a kıspet — the short, leather pants after which the event is named – wrestlers drenched in olive oil grap­ple in one-on-one matches until one of the two is knocked onto his back. It is esti­mated that two tons of olive oil are used each year over the course of the tournament.

According to leg­end, the event dates back to 1357 when a group of Ottoman sol­diers stopped near Edirne. To pass the time while the sol­diers waited for their next orders, 40 of them began wrestling. Even after the rest had fin­ished, the final two com­peted into the night and both were found dead the fol­low­ing morning.

There was no win­ner that year, but since then the event has been held annu­ally with par­tic­i­pants wrestling in pairs until only one man is left standing.





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