Recep Kara overpowered his opponent Mehmet Y. Yeşil to win the 655th annual Kirkpinar olive oil wrestling tournament today in Edirne’s Kirkpinar region amid Turkey’s political turmoil.

2,000 kilograms of olive oil were prepared for the 1,969 wrestlers who applied to the tournament, which was noted to be the most applications the tournament had ever received.

In the opening speech of the famous annual tournament, which is followed closely by people in Turkey, Musa Aydin, the president of the Wrestling Federation remarked that Kirkpinar “shall take place as long as the Turkish nation stands.” Numerous references were made alluding to the political situation in Turkey during the tournament by viewers, comments of the contestants and the organizers.

Throughout the tournament, nationalistic political slogans in support of “the heroic Turkish police” and “the great Turkish nation” were observed.


Recep Kara overcame his opponent, Mehmet Y. Yeşil, to win the 655th Kirkpinar

The traditional festival that usually takes place before the wrestling matches begin was cancelled due to turbulent events that arose after the recent coup attempt. Recep Gürkan, mayor of the hosting city Edirne, announced on 17 July that people who lost their lives in the events must be respected, hence the concerts, cooking contests, folk dances and the archery festival that were supposed to mark the opening of the festival would not take place.

The final round of the olive oil wrestling tournament was concluded today with Recep Kara overpowering his opponent Mehmet Y. Yeşil.

Kara became a four-time winner of the Kirkpinar wrestling tournament. The first time was in 2004, when he became the youngest (22) to win in the history of the competition. The golden belt is a symbolic award that remains in the possession of the winner for the following year.

Kara once again earned the title “başpehlivan,” or “head of the pehlivans,” as the winner is known. The title originated from the Persian word pahlavān meaning a warrior or brave person, and is attributed to the wrestler who wins the tournament. Recep Kara also received the first place purse of 40,000 Turkish Liras ($13,050).

During the time-out before the final wrestling match, there was an auction concerning who the ağa of next year’s tournament will be. The old Turkish title ağa literally translates as a landlord or master in a rural setting depending on the context. For the Kirkpinar tournament, it signifies the person who will sponsor and host the event.

The mayor initiated the auction from 222,000 Turkish Liras ($72,432) which ended with the winning bid of 400,000 TL ($130,508) by a businessman Seyfettin Selim. The result was not surprising to the viewers as Selim has been hosting the Kirkpinar since 2009 as the ağa with the exception of 2014. He also mentioned that he will donate an additional 100,000 TL to the families of those who died during the events following the failed coup d’etat attempt by the military forces on the 15th of July.

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