Ethnosports Culture Festival back after 2-year COVID-19 break

The Ethnosports Culture Festival, which promotes ancient and traditional sports from around the globe, will return for a fifth time on June 9 after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Details of this year’s event, to be held at the repurposed Atatürk Airport in Istanbul, were announced in a meet-the-press event on Tuesday.

The World Ethnosport Confederation will organize the festival between June 9 and June 12. The organizers hope to welcome more than a thousand participants from at least 26 countries, this year.

The festival is the brainchild of World Ethnosport Confederation head Bilal Erdoğan, son of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Speaking at the media event, Bilal Erdoğan said they were happy to bring back the festival after almost two years due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Festival sponsors Turkish Airlines (THY) Chairman Ahmet Bolat, Türk Telekom CEO Ümit Önal, Vakıf Participation Bank Chairman Öztürk Oran and Spor Toto head Bünyamin Bozgeyik joined Erdoğan at the program.

He added that the entire world was waiting for the Ethnosports Culture Festival to return. He focused on the importance of the Atatürk Airport as the venue, after work began to transform the now-closed facility into one of Istanbul’s largest green spaces.

“The process of turning it into a national garden is underway. We hope this place will become greener, more suitable for events and we can continue to hold our festivals here every year,” Erdoğan said.

World Ethnosport Confederation President Bilal Erdoğan (C) and other guests attend a meet-the-press event for 5th Ethnosports Culture Festival, Istanbul, Turkey, June 7, 2022.

Largest traditional sports festival

The confederation president emphasized that the body has turned into the world’s largest traditional sports organization over the years.

It currently has 22 members from 15 different countries and is in contact with more than 80 countries.

“We have signed a letter of intent with the ministers of 12 countries, while we continue to expand the fields of cooperation with the UN and UNESCO.”

“We can confidently say that the Ethnosports Culture Festival is the most comprehensive traditional sports festival in the world. Our aim is to raise public awareness about traditional sports in Turkey. We want to introduce people not only to Anatolian sports but also to traditional games from the guest countries,” he added.

Games for everyone

Other than wrestling, equestrian and javelin sports native to Turkey, the event also showcases traditional sports from other countries.

“This year, we will feature equestrian wrestling from Kazakhstan. It is a very enjoyable sport. It is often played between the bride and groom at weddings. I hope everyone will enjoy this sport as well,” said Erdoğan.

There will also be 60 different traditional games, from horse riding and archery to spinning tops, for children and their families.

Besides games and sports, the festival will also hold traditional life, art, culture and cuisine from all participating nations.

Ethnosports Culture Festival aims to fight back against the loss of cultural richness by promoting traditional culture and sports against what organizers call the industrialization of sports.

“Turkey is becoming a global center for traditional sports thanks to the festival… We think it adds to the charm of Istanbul,” Erdoğan said.

The Istanbul-based World Ethnosport Confederation has staged the event since 2016 and along with sports events. It showcases the different customs of participating countries, from wedding ceremonies to rituals to welcome a newborn to the family, as well as their cuisines.

In 2019, 12 ancient sports were displayed at the festival, including traditional archery, oil wrestling, gabardine wrestling, mounted javelin, aba wrestling, mas wrestling, mounted archery and Argentina’s national sport pato which combines elements of polo and basketball.

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