`Fatih Atli Wins 653rd Kirkpinar - Olive Oil Times

Fatih Atli Wins 653rd Kirkpinar

Jun 23, 2014 8:48 AM EDT
Jonathan Hills

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This week, more than 100 drums of olive oil were poured over the heads of 1,000 con­tes­tants as part of one of the longest-run­ning sport­ing events in the world; a Turkish olive oil wrestling tour­na­ment dat­ing from the 14th cen­tury.

The 653rd Kırkpınar Oil Wrestling and Cultural Activities Week wrapped up today in Edirne, Turkish Thrace amid a back­drop of fes­tiv­i­ties, cel­e­bra­tion and her­itage.

Kırkpınar, mean­ing 40 springs” in Turkish, has been the site of the annual wrestling tour­na­ment since 1346, mak­ing it one of the old­est con­tin­u­ously-held sport­ing events in the world.

Fatih Atlı earned the title of Başpehlivan,” win­ning the 653rd Kirkpinar this week in Edirne, Turkey.

The week-long tour­na­ment and cul­tural cel­e­bra­tion was a med­ley of music, food, sport, and celebrity – with davul drums and zurna (a tra­di­tional wood­wind sim­i­lar to the oboe) play­ing the Kırkpınar March” and Turkish national anthem to open the cer­e­mony.

Throughout this week folk danc­ing, Turkish home-cook­ing com­pe­ti­tions, musi­cal con­certs and speeches filled the sched­ule, with the Turkish pres­i­dent attend­ing the com­pe­ti­tion on the final day to con­grat­u­late the başpehli­van’ (cham­pion wrestler) and award him with a 14-carat golden belt as well as the title of Chief Pehlivian.”


This time it was Fatih Atlı, from the Ladik dis­trict of Samsun, who defeated last year’s cham­pion, Ismail Balaban Başpehlivan, to take home the cov­eted gold belt and the title of Başpehlivan.

Pehlivian,” a Persian word which can be roughly trans­lated into hero” or cham­pion,” is a term given to all oil wrestlers regard­less of their age or suc­cess. Opponents tak­ing part in the tour­na­ment cover each other in olive oil before shout­ing Hayda Bre!” to each other with gusto – a Turkish cry used to excite the oppo­nent while simul­ta­ne­ously offi­ci­at­ing the dual.

The com­bat­ants wear Kipset, a pair of Turkish leder­ho­sen tra­di­tion­ally made from water buf­falo hide and each weigh­ing around 13 kilo­grams (30 pounds). Unlike a major­ity of wrestling forms, due to their oppo­nent being drenched in olive oil, wrestlers are per­mit­ted to grab or reach inside each oth­er’s clothes in order to lift their com­bat­ant over their shoul­ders, pin them to the ground, or bring them to exhaus­tion to win.

Olive oil – a main­stay of the Mediterranean diet, agri­cul­ture and cer­e­mony since the Neolithic rev­o­lu­tion – has been used as a com­po­nent to wrestling for mil­len­nia. The ancient civil­i­sa­tions of Persia, Egypt, Assyria, Greece and Rome were all prac­ti­tion­ers of the sport, with the ear­li­est known exam­ple of olive oil-wrestling dat­ing from 2650 BCE near the Chafadji-tem­ple in Babylon.

Fatih Atlı defeated last year’s cham­pion Ismail Balaban in a gru­el­ing 45-minute final.

Turkish oil wrestling, known as yağlı güreş” in Turkish, has been prac­ticed among Turkic-speak­ing peo­ples and Turkic eth­nic groups through­out Western Eurasia since the ninth cen­tury. A mar­riage between tra­di­tional Seljuk wrestling prac­tices and olive oil wrestling of Mediterranean antiq­uity, the mod­ern sport was crys­tallised dur­ing the early years of Ottoman expan­sion into Europe. The Edirne tour­na­ment itself has its ori­gins in 1361 and was for­mally inducted into UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List in 2010.

Oil wrestling is steadily gain­ing sup­port and aware­ness in other coun­tries as a result of increased media cov­er­age and the influ­ence of Turkish expats. In more recent years the sport has been intro­duced to west­ern coun­tries such as the Netherlands and Switzerland as well as gain­ing some pop­u­lar­ity in Asia in coun­tries already famil­iar with tra­di­tional wrestling forms like Japan.


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