Oiled up fighters clash in 661st Turkish wrestling championship
Two well-built men are doused in oil before wrestling in a grassy field. And it's no easy task. The olive oil that covers their bodies from head to toe makes it impossible to get a grip, leading to one of the sport's trademark moves where one opponent thrusts his hands into the other's trousers for an advantage. Accompanied by the sound of zurna (flute) and drums, their aim is to pin their opponent to the ground. Oil wrestling is considered one of the world's oldest sports, reportedly dating back to the 14th century. This year marks the 661st Kirkpinar Oil Wrestling Championships – the country's most prestigious event of its kind. The annual festival is part of UNESCO's List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. According to reports, more than 2,475 "pehlivans" – or wrestlers – registered for the event, the highest number ever. There were moments of tension and joy. Riot police had to be called to secure the arena after wrestlers confronted judges under the scorching sun. Oil wrestling has been practiced for thousands of years, but the festival reportedly started in the 1360s, when legend says the second Ottoman sultan, Sultan Orhan, wanted to keep his soldiers fit and ready for battle. The tournament's "aga" or "master of games" are also chosen during the games. These gamemasters embody the traditional values of the ancestral sport and are also financial benefactors for the games and the wrestlers themselves. The wrestlers, wearing leather trousers called "kispet", are covered in olive oil by an oiler before the wrestling begins and engage in a ritualized procession to begin the match. They wrestle to earn the title of "Baspehlivan" or head wrestler. This year, Cengizhan Simsek became the champion.