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Kirkpinar: 667-Year-Old Turkish Oil Wrestling Tournament



The Turkish oil wrestling tradition of Kirkpinar has seen annual competitions since as far back as 1346. In fact, the Guinness Book of World Records recognizes the yearly contest at Edime, Turkey as the longest running sports competition in the world. Kirkpinar is also known as “oil wrestling” because competitors douse themselves in olive oil to slip out of holds. In lieu of a ring, wrestlers, who wear only leather shorts, try to pin their opponent in a grassy field. A mixture of olive oil and water is available for wrestlers to grease up as they see fit.

Until recently, the sport had few fans outside of Turkey and the week-long wrestling festival in Edime was the only one of its kind. But in 1997, Amsterdam hosted the first annual European Kirkpinar championship, which was broadcast on CNN and BBC. Since then, its popularity has been growing in The Netherlands and slowly spreading beyond. Contestants from a handful of European countries typically enter each year. While many people still haven’t heard of Kirkpinar, its advanced age proves it has staying power – possibly the ability to stick around for another 650 years.

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