Edirne is famous for its oiled wrestling. You probably have seen it on some tv-station: strong and often fat men, all covered in olive oil, wearing only leather breaches, who try and wrestle each other to the ground. Each year this is performed at a special place outside the city. I never saw it life. Its so well known the city is almost identified by it, so this bus company put a picture on its coach.
The annual Kırkpınar tournament, held on the site of Edirne’s former imperial palace grounds (called ‘Sarayiçi’ = the inside of the palace) since 1362, is the oldest continuously running, sanctioned sporting competition in the world. In 2011, the competition was held for the 650th time; the games have been cancelled only about 70 times during these six and a half centuries.
Each year, around 1000 competitors gather for this three-day wrestling tournament, divided into 9 categories, the youngest being 7 years of age. Their performances are watched by some 30.000 spectators.
Regarding ‘Oil wrestling’ or ‘grease wrestling’ (Turkish: ‘yağlı güreş’):
This is the Turkish national sport. It is so called because the wrestlers douse themselves with olive oil. The term ‘güreş’ is shared with other forms of wrestling practiced by Turkic-speakers across Europe and Central Asia (as well as by camels in West-Anatolia and by bulls in Artvin, on the Turkish-georgian border).
The wrestlers, known as pehlivan (Persian: پهلوان meaning ‘hero’ or ‘champion’) wear a type of hand-stitched lederhosen called a ‘kisbet’, which is traditionally made of water buffalo hide, and most recently has been made of calfskin.
Unlike Olympic wrestling, oil wrestling matches may be won by achieving an effective hold of the kisbet. Thus, the pehlivan aims to control his opponent by putting his arm through the latter's kisbet. To win by this move is called ‘paça kazık’. Originally, matches had no set duration and could go on for one or two days until one man was able to establish his superiority, but in 1975 the duration was capped at 40 minutes for the ‘başpehlivan’ (the highest category) and 30 minutes for the pehlivan category. If there is no winner, play continues for another 15 minutes / 10 minutes for the pehlivan category, wherein scores are kept to determine the victor.
The important competitions are organised under the supervision of the Turkish Wrestling Federation.
Correspondent: J.M.Criel, Antwerpen.
Sources (amongst others) Wikipedia.