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.See Also: Kırkpınar Coverage
“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.