Seeking to boost tourism revenues, Edirne, a northwestern city on Turkey's border with Greece, will open a historical oil wrestling field to tourists all year-round. Kırkpınar, the grass-covered field where an annual oil wrestling event is held, will remain open other than a few days of wrestling events.
Officials say exhibition bouts will be held at the field which is currently being renovated. The move is good news for fans of wrestling that involved heavy-set pros from across Turkey trying to grab each other while doused in olive oil. Wrestlers, wearing nothing but leather pants, have to force their opponent's back touching on the ground in this game that traces its history to the early times of the Ottoman Empire.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency (AA), Recep Gürkan, mayor of the city that was once the capital of the now-defunct empire, said the renovation would soon be completed and they plan to host the first exhibition bouts this year. "We have a tradition of 656 years here. People will have a chance to see the historic atmosphere here," Gürkan said, adding that they were in talks with tour operators and plan to introduce a small fee for tourists to the exhibition bouts.
Kırkpınar traces its history to the 14th century and legend has it that 40 soldiers deployed for conquest of the modern-day Trakya region where Edirne is located, often engaged in oil wrestling for training and a pastime activity. Two brothers among the soldiers were so fixated on defeating each other, they wrestled for hours and died on the spot, the legend says. Their burial site is where the present-day contest is held.
Throughout Turkey, oil wrestling championships are held in different regions. The winning wrestlers of these championships attend the Kırkpınar Oil Wrestling Festival to win the title of wrestling champion. The champion keeps the title for an entire year and if he manages to retain his title for three years in a row, he wins an actual golden belt.
Matches sometimes take minutes and sometimes about an hour, depending on the success of any of the wrestlers to get a good grip of the opponent as both men are donned in leather pants that make it extra tricky as the olive oil trickles down to the pants, known as kıspet.
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