The COVID-19 pandemic originally delayed the 659th edition of the world's oldest sporting event from the first week of July to September. Now the main sponsor and ceremonial head of the event says he no longer supports the tournament taking place.
The governor of Turkey’s historic Kırkpınar olive oil wrestling tournament has said that he believes the competition should be canceled this year.
The pandemic process did not pass as we expected. Cases are increasing. If the federation decides to hold Kırkpınar, I will not go.
Now, Seyfettin Selim argues that the integrity of the competition has been compromised and the world’s oldest sporting event should therefore not go ahead.
This puts Selim at odds with the president of Turkey’s wrestling federation, Musa Aydın, who is continuing to work with the country’s ministry of health to decide how best to organize the event.See Also: Kırkpınar Coverage
Aydın originally planned to hold this year’s Kırkpınar inside of a so-called bubble, where the wrestlers would stay (pending a negative test) until their elimination. No fans would be permitted to watch the event.
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“The president of the federation is trying, but at this time there will be no wrestling worthy of Kırkpınar,” Selim said. “The wrestlers cannot make preparations. There are nutritional patterns. They diet starting from December until June. They constantly improve themselves.”
“It’s obvious why I don’t want it. Most of the wrestlers quit training. If there are 50 head wrestlers, seven to eight of them are training,” he added. “We cannot find a real wrestler in Kırkpınar. I am against Kırkpınar this year, as agha, I will not do it.”
As agha of Kırkpınar, Selim, who is also a wealthy businessman and philanthropist, provides funding for the event and awards the başpehlivan – the winner of the competition.
He claims that without his presence, the event cannot go forward. Olive Oil Times was unable to verify this claim.
“The pandemic process did not pass as we expected. Cases are increasing,” Selim said. According to figures from the Turkish government, there are nearly 15,000 active COVID-19 cases in Turkey and slightly more than 6,000 people have died from the disease so far.
“If the federation decides to hold Kırkpınar, I will not go, but they cannot do it despite me,” he added. “Even if it is done, I will not go.”