The seventh edition of the Conquest Cup started yesterday in Istanbul, which was once home to the notable archers of the Ottoman Empire. Named after Istanbul's conquest by the Ottomans, the international event will end on May 29, the day the centuries-old Byzantine rule of the city ended in 1453.
The tournament, which hosts 520 archers from 52 countries, is a sign that archery, be it contemporary or traditional, is gaining traction steadily but certainly in Turkish sports, which have been dominated by football. Going more mainstream with world and European titles won by young archers like Mete Gazoz and Yasemin Ecem Anagöz, archery's comeback is also linked to a revived interest in Ottoman history and the popularity of Ottoman-themed TV shows.
The Archers Foundation is among major contributors to this revived interest in archery, which was a natural skill of Ottoman soldiers. The foundation, which runs the Archers Lodge in Okmeydanı, a quarter of Istanbul whose name translates to "Arrow Square," seeks to attract more people to the sport. Okmeydanı was formed on the orders of Mehmed II, the Ottoman sultan better known as Mehmed the Conqueror for his conquest of Istanbul, so that both professional archers and ordinary citizens could practice archery.
The foundation's chairman, Haydar Ali Yıldız, was joined by Bilal Erdoğan, a board member of the foundation and director of the World Ethnosports Federation that seeks to revive ancient, ethnic sports, for a press conference to mark the opening of the event at the foundation's facilities in Istanbul. Erdoğan, the son of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and an avid archer, joined fellow members of the foundation for a shooting from the historic Rumeli city walls toward the Marmara Sea.
Archers will compete in various categories, from recurve to compound, in traditional and modern archery fields for three days. Some 2,770 archers took part in nationwide qualifiers held between April and May.
Speaking at the press conference, Haydar Ali Yıldız said the event was one of the largest civilian archery competitions in the world, and their foundation made a name for itself in the world by contributing to world archery by training the best archers, who joined the national archery team.
For his part, Bilal Erdoğan said the event grew in terms of more participation in its seventh edition, and they've especially seen a larger interest from local archers. "More sports clubs have included archery in the sports they offered training on, and we worked to promote archery across the country," he said, pointing out that this was linked to rising interest in the Conquest Cup.