Sports were one of the components that kept the social and community life of Istanbul lively. Sports events that have been carried out, either state-mandated or independently, from the Roman period to modern day enabled people to take a break from the problems of daily life, and lead a healthy lifestyle through traditional and modern forms. It also served as a means of establishing a culture of peace and solidarity on a regional and global scale.
The oldest sports in the Roman period were wrestling, archery, boxing, track, bouncing, and a variety of ball games. People who won the races during ferial days were awarded and monuments were erected for people who displayed outstanding success. Referees with canes and sticks in their hands were appointed in some races.1 Sportsmen from far regions of the country would participate in competitions as well. While some of the common sports in Ancient Greece and Rome were maintained in Istanbul (which became the capital of the Roman Empire), some of the games were discontinued and some games of Turks and Persians entered Istanbul as well. One of the oldest games of the Byzantine period that was carried out for entertainment was gladiator fighting. Gladiator fights were first considered to be a sport due to being carried out within a certain system in front of spectators, including prisoners of war and slaves, and were displayed in order to familiarize the Roman society with the military and prepare them for possible wars. However, gladiator fights were forbidden after a short while as they contained extreme violence and resulted in serious injuries and even death.
The Theodosios I period, when Christianity was accepted as the official religion (379-395), was a period when big social and cultural transformations took place as well as religious and political transformations. This Christian emperor of the Roman Empire abolished all pagan clubs, banned some of sports events, and restricted others. For instance, he banned the Roman style gladiator fights. Traditional Olympic games, the center of which was in Olimpia (Athens), had been carried out since 776 BC, but the start of the games dated back even further. Those traditional games were carried out in the early 390s for the last time. Though they were resumed in Istanbul for a while after that time, the Olympics in Istanbul grew away from their pagan roots and changes were made in accordance with the idea of Christianity, both in terms of shape and content. For example, praises for Zeus were replaced by prayer ceremonies for Christ.
Chariot races, which were among the most favorited games of the Olympics, became a popular sporting activity after the Olympics were abolished. At the beginning, only racers with military roots took part in chariot races, which were organized frequently, even just for fun. In time, it started to be considered as a profession and was adopted by all sections of society. Noble men, emperors, and ordinary people started participating in this sport as of the 10th century. For instance, Constantine VIII took part in races under the same conditions as other competitors. While chariot races were carried out 30-50 times a day in the 5th century, this number decreased in the 10th century and went down to 8, 4 in the morning and 4 in the evening. Chariot races were performed in the Hippodrome. The race area was comprised of two sections. The section that was surrounded by the wall called the “spina” was in the middle and it included the Serpentine Column and Obelisk. Around this section there was the 480 m. long racecourse wide enough for four chariots. The number of teams increased to four after The Blues and Greens were added to the original racer groups which were divided as Reds and Whites in the beginning. The colors of the teams were attributed to 4 components that formed the essence of existence. Green symbolized the earth; white the air; red the fire, and blue the water. In later periods, Reds and Whites that won the races less than other teams joined the Greens and Blues, respectively. Therefore the races were mostly between these two groups.2 Chariots were named “quadriga” since 4 horses pulled each chariot. Races were performed with the official permission of the palace and the emperor. The emperor and his relatives watched the races in the lodge called “cathisma” which could be considered a VIP seating area. Horses would run at breakneck speed around the spina through the frenzied cheering of the public. The riders would wear sleeveless leather tunics held by cross leather belts and wrap their calves with puttee. Each competitor had to tour around the racecourse counterclockwise seven times representing seven big planets. Seven ostrich eggs were placed on a table in a way that all spectators could see, and the competitor who completed each stage would take one of these eggs. Winners were given big awards and monuments were erected for some of them in the spina. Dancing, pantomime, acrobatics and acrobat demonstrations would take place and singers would perform before the race, during the breaks, and at the end of the race.3
Chariot races would frequently end with fights and conflicts, as the Blues and Greens were political groups at the same time. Fights that started in Hippodrome would overflow to the streets. However, chariot races were the second event that made the society happy following free bread distribution in Byzantine. All parts of the society from the palace to the lowest classes were interested in chariot races as they were considered not only a means of entertainment but also a part of official ceremonies. Races continued until the Latin invasion in 1204. No chariot races were performed in Istanbul anymore since the Hippodrome, the monuments in the Hippodrome, and other structures were destroyed.
One of the sports in Byzantine Istanbul was “polo”. Polo is one of the oldest games of Turkish people and is also called “çöğen”and “çevgan”. This game comes from tshu-gandan (çugan) in Persian and turned into “tzykanion” in Byzantine. Tzykanion was played between two teams comprised of four or six people who were riding horses. The competitors would try to send the apple-sized leather ball to the goal post of the rival team. A stadium called “Tzykanisterion” reserved for polo games was constructed next to the Big Palace for the game that was known to have started in Theodosios II’s term (408-450). The structure was demolished for the construction of a new church in Basileios I’s period and the new Tzykanisterion was connected to the church through two galleries.
Wrestling, archery and javelin were common in the Byzantine period. Also, hunting animations demonstrated in the Hippodrome were not any different from rabbit and wild boar hunting scenes of noble men. Lifting sacks or similar things for entertainment among people brings weightlifting to mind. From modern athleticism branches; discus throwing, shot put, long jumping, and track and field sports were played. Tornemen and dzustra sports that were milder than gladiator fights were popular among a certain crowd of people. Tornemen somewhat resembled Turkish javelin and knight matches of Westerners that were played between two groups of rivals that would fight with spears. Dzustra, on the other hand, was a one-on-one combat sport.4 Byzantine chess that was also called “circular chess” since it was played on a circular piece of wood was also considered a sports event.5
Sports events were carried out within the limits allowed by Islamic view in Istanbul during the Turkish era. Just like the state structure and many areas of social life, the traces of Oghuz customs could be observed in the performance of ancestral sports such as archery, javelin and horse riding. Traditional sports considered as war training activities were introduced into entertainment activities during peaceful periods. While the sporting events that were often carried out in the form of competitions enabled the continuation of cultural values, they also became the means of taking a break from political and social worries for a while. Especially in the modern period, global developments in sports were followed and modern sports entered everyday social life. Sports became common among ordinary people when artisans of Istanbul protected them and contributed to them; as a result the state formed facilities open to the use of the public. The preparation of monographies and codes of law regarding various branches of sports in early periods, the discussion of sports events in the media due to the development of newspaper and magazine printing, and the publication of separate sports newspapers give us an idea about the interest of the state, scholars and the public in sports.
Italian Bassona, who spent 8 years in Istanbul in Kanuni’s (The Magnificient) era, stated “When it is nice out, people go out of the town; women go to the countryside with women and men with men; they run with horses; they strengthen their arms; they throw poles; they jump; they throw stones; they shoot arrows…”6, which showed how common were. The depictions of the writer who mentioned the javelin throw with horses and cudgel games are remarkable because they show the variety of sports events and reflect the liveliness the city acquired thanks to traditional sports rooted in Central Asia.
Archery, which dated back to prehistoric times in Turkish culture and which was promoted by the Prophet Muhammad, was one of the most significant branches of entertaining war trainees. People who wanted to be engaged in archery had to get ratification called “kabze” from the Archers Lodge. For this, the candidate had to shoot his arrow at least 900 “gez”. “Gez” was used as a distance measurement unit in archery and was equal to 66-cm. According to this calculation, the person who could not pass 594 m was considered unsuccessful and would not be given “kabze” even if he was the sultan.
There were a variety of shooting styles in archery. The most common ones were long distance shots called “range” and shooting at the target called “puta”. The range shootings were carried out in 4 categories. Old archers would compete in the first category. Other categories were named “nine hundred”, “thousand” and “thousand hundred” based on the number of gez. The person who shot his arrow in the farthest would win in range shootings and a “range monument” would be erected in the name of the record breaking archer. The highest record belonged to Tozkoparan Iskender who was one of the archers of the Bayezid II, Yavuz and Kanuni eras with 1.281,5 gez. Mahmud II from the sultans also had talent in archery. Mahmud II’s fame in archery was stated as “having the talent that even the past archers would admire in the art of shooting arrows”, and “having a strong claw, one of the heroes of his time”7 in ‘Takvîm-i Vekâyi‘, dated 4 December 1831; the score of the sultan who ranked the 17th after shooting a distance of 1225 gez along with famous archers was registered.
Small metal plates called “mirrors”, hard wood blocks, and “putas” were used as the sighting device in the category of target shooting. A puta was a flat bag in the shape of a pear filled with cotton seed and saw dust. This bag was made from leather and was hung somewhere or tied onto a pole. As the arrow could not go far due to the weight of the arrow head at the tip of the arrow, puta shootings were performed from a short distance. The person who hit the sighting device the most would win in this competition, which was either between two groups or individuals.8 Objects such as a pitcher, a ball, an apple and a plate were put on the top of a pole and were aimed at in puta shootings. As a result of this game, “gourd shooting” (kabak oyunu) appeared. This game, which was based on hitting the target on a tall pole by turning around on a galloping horse, required one to be a good rider as well. The aim of this game, which dated back to pre-Ottoman times, was to acquire the method of pretending to run away during a battle and turning around and hitting the enemy.9
The third kind of shooting style, which was less common in archery, was “zarp” shooting that aimed to pierce a thick and hard target with an arrow. Archers would demonstrate some of their skills which included piercing a yellow brass bell, sticking arrow into thick logs, piercing the shields used as protection with an arrow, hitting bottles full of water, and sending the arrow to the sky and catching it without dropping it.10 Gerlach stated in his diary from 1576 that one of the slaves of Sokullu Mehmed Pasha aimed at and passed the arrow through a 3-inch-thick iron circle in a demonstration in Atmeydanı (the Hippodrome or today Sultanahmet square).11 The skills of Turkish people in archery derived from the fact that boys learned how to shoot arrows at the age of seven or eight and worked on archery for the next 10-12 years. High state officials and some wealthy people had archery trainings in their mansions. People who knew how to use arrows would serve as volunteer instructors to those who did not know how to shoot arrows. Shooting areas were present on most streets and corners and everybody, young and old alike, could train whenever they wished and target boards watered by an appointed official every day.12 This gives an idea about the presence of archery in the neighborhood culture.
Archery that ended completely with World War I was revived with the order of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in 1937. Archery Sport Institution was formed within the body of Beyoglu Community Center and was spearheaded by volunteers such as İbrahim Özok, Bekir Özok, Vakkas Okatan, Necmettin Okyay, Halim Baki Kunter and Kemal Gürses, most of whose last names were named after this sport. After the death of Ataturk, archery started declining and assets of the institution were plundered. Although archery was revived again with the instruction of Celal Bayar in 1958, it stayed in the background after being given to the Shooting Confederation. Archery became independent again in 1961. The first Turkey Archery Championship was organized in Inonu Stadium the same year. Archery drew an up-and-down graph in following years and women started taking an interest in it too. Istanbul hosted an international archery competition for the first time in 1999.13
Cündîlik (Acrobatic Horse Riding)
The term “cündî” (jundi) that derived from the Arabic word “jund” meaning soldier was used for talented horse riders who demonstrated acrobatics on a horse in Ottoman era. There was not a division or a ward with the name cündî in Topkapi Palace, but the ones in Enderun14 were distributed to different wards. Having two groups of cündî riders among the Grand Viziers’ employees was the law. According to the Ottoman protocol rules, cündî riders of the Grand Vizier would go to the Old Palace on the third day of religious holidays and on birth celebrations to participate in the javelin throw before the sultan in the square of the palace. Furthermore, they would have demonstrations and welcoming ceremonies for kings, princes and ambassadors taking refuge in the Ottoman Empire. They would also have demostrations to celebrate the opening ceremonies of important structures.15 The training area of these riders of the Grand Vizier was Kum Square in Sublime Porte (Bâbıâli). Other riders trained in Kabak Square, in front of the gate opening to the Beşinciyer of Topkapi Palace and in the area of Çinili Mansion in Beşiktaş.
After a beginner who wanted to learn cündîlik was taught how to ride a horse, sit on a horse and hold the bridle, he would be taught how to shoot arrows at the plates and squashes tied to the tops of poles, all while riding the horse. Later, he would be asked to use a spear, sword, arrow or a rifle. The person who would prove himself in using these weapons would first become an experienced rider than a sharp rider. Sharp riders had to demonstrate skills such as stopping the horse suddenly as it was galloping, turning the horse around a certain spot, throwing the javelin to the farthest place, sticking “kalemli”16 into thick oak logs while on a horse, hitting a flying bird, hitting the club to the ground while riding a horse and passing it over a line that was stretched over tall trees, and hitting a squash put on a tall pole. All of these skills were practiced in order to be more successful and win prizes in the competitions.17
German Haunolt and French Baudier, who took part in the festivals of 1582, mentioned acrobatic horse-riding competitions. Everybody was amazed by horse riders who could jump on galloping horses by springing up on their right legs and continuing to ride the horses standing with one leg on the saddle. Riders who took the saddle off of the horse, put it over the neck of the galloping horse, then tied the saddle back on the horse and sat on it also amazed people.18 Depictions of Löwenklaw were even more interesting:
While another rider was riding the horse as fast as possible, he touched his foot on the ground three, four, maybe more times and sat on the saddle again. He stood on the saddle with his shoulders on the saddle and feet in the air. He was doing this as the horse was galloping. Later, he made his horse dance, brought it to its knees, laid it down on the ground with him, stood him up again and laid it down again. He washed the animal, groomed it, took off its horseshoes and put them back on as it was lying down. He took off its suit and put its saddle and harness back on. He walked up to the horse and he stopped. He hit the circular shield that he put on the horse with his arrow. The animal did not move at all as if it was dead. However, when it stood up again, it was confident and moving as if nothing had happened.19
Cündîlik was abolished after the abolition of the janissary organization. The establishment of Cavalrymen Horse-Riding and Training School in Bakırköy by the War Minister Mahmud Şevket Pasha in 1911 was the first step of the transformation into modern horse riding. However, this school, which acted with the mentality of military training rather than horse riding as a sport, closed down with the start of the Balkan Wars before it reached its aims. The War Minister Enver Pasha and his friends revived horse riding with the establishment of the Cavalrymen Guild in 1913. The Cavalrymen Guild adopted the training system of jockey clubs in Europe and organized its first race in the spring of 1916. It started publishing the Cavalrymen Paper on 15 August 1917. The magazine declared that it started publication aiming to “revive horse-riding that was considered to be one of the primary skills of our ancestors but ignored later, and promote all kinds of sports at the same time”20 as well as being the voice of the guild. However, when the Cavalrymen Guild could not carry this burden through due to expenses, the Cavalrymen School undertook the sport of horse riding. Free horse riding courses were offered with the help of the principal of the school, Lieutenant Colonel Cevdet Bilgişin. The sport of horse riding lost the support of the military when the cavalryman class was taken out of Turkish army in late 1950s. Civilian horse riding period started when some clubs embraced the sport.
Javelin on a Horse
Javelin was a game played both publically and privately, and sultans were proud to show it off to their foreign guests. The javelin, which was one of the weapons used before the invention of firearms, is a sort of short spear that is not sharp at the tip. It is 110 cm long and is 3 cm in diameter at one end and 2cm in diameter at the other end.21 Javelin was generally played during the last weeks of the summer and first months of the fall. People who wanted to play javelin were invited to squares through announcements made by playing drums on the streets, so everybody would be informed about the event. People who died during playing javelin were considered martyrs as it was training for war.
Cündî horse riders would play javelin on a horse. This game was also called “harharî jirit (continuous javelin)” in order to differentiate it from other kinds of. It became a tradition for this game to be played in the location where the armies stayed every Friday. State Chronicler Raşid wrote that the horse riders of the Grand Vizier played javelin “as a custom” in the opening ceremony of Sadabad Park. Competitions within the palace took place between two teams called “Okra Team” and “Cabbage Team”. The Okra team would wear red and the Cabbage team would wear green and get into the team’s spirit in this game, which were similar to chariot races in Byzantine times. Black aghas, who were harem aghas, would support the Cabbage team and white aghas would support the Okra team. The sultans who would watch these contentious competitions would support one of the teams as well. For instance, Selim III had the marble sign, which was erected for the memory of his rifle shot in 1791, decorated with a cabbage and Mahmud II had his sign, which dated back to 1811, decorated with okra.22 This indicated the team the sultans supported. Selim III even mentioned his love for the Cabbage team in one of his poems.
During a javelin match, the groups would stand at least 200 m across from each other. A horse rider who had a javelin in his hand would ride his horse at full gallop towards the middle, call the name of a person from the rival team, throw his javelin, and turn around and run away. This act was called a “challenge”, and afterwards the rival player whose name was called would start chasing the person who threw the javelin at him and throw his javelin at his new opponent. Another player from the rival team would shoot ahead at the same time and chase the person who threw the javelin. The game would continue on like this, with another person from the other team joining the chase. It was possible to catch the javelin in the air and throw it back again. The target was the rider. If a rider hit the horse with the javelin he would be disqualified. The rider who managed to catch the javelin thrown at him in the air would disqualify the person who threw it. Points were awarded when a player threw the javelin and hit an opponent. The team with the highest score would win the game. Battle music would be played with drums and clarions during the game. The aim of this was not to turn the game into festival but to encourage the running javelin player to pull himself together.23
The sultans who were extremely interested in javelin had a javelin field built in or around each palace they had constructed, including Topkapi and Beşiktaş. Osman II (1618-1622) and Ibrahim I (1640-1648) were masters in horse riding and javelin throwing. Evliya Çelebi was also a javelin fan; that’s how he lost all his foreteeth. Javelin was practiced regularly until the period of Mahmud II. The javelin game in Büyükdere in 1812 was played among 80 cündî horse riders, one half was made up of the Okra team and the other half was made up of the Cabbage team. The height of the clubs thrown reached the height of one or two minarets.24 Harem aghas joined the Cabbage team and favorite servants of the viziers joined the Okra team in the competition held in Çinili Mansion in 1815. Mahmud II put a stop to javelin matchs after the death of one of a famous horse rider, Şuayb Agha, who died during a competition in 1816 when he fell from the horse and was killed by Çopur Hasan, a horse rider who secretly nursed a grudge against him. In the end, Mahmud II banned javelin completely after the Auspicious Incident (Vak’a-i Hayriye) since it would not be useful against enemies and it was already a dangerous sport. The sultan had a tendency towards archery, and javelin was limited only to throwing clubs.
A club is a 4-5 cm thick and 85-90 cm long peeled oak rod. The tip of the rod was sharpened in a hexagonal way in order to help it stick to the target. It was also called “kalemli” because it resembled a big pencil. The club with an arrowhead at the tip was called “hışt”. Before the invention of the rifle, clubs were used to stab the enemy or his horse during the battle. It lost its importance with the development of the rifle and instead became a sporting tool used by cündî horse riders in sport events and competitions. The sport of throwing clubs gained importance after Mahmud II banned the javelin. A line was stretched between two tall trees and competitors on their horses would try to pass the clubs over the lines (which could be as high as two minarets). The games were organized in Gülhane, the Agha gardens, and Çinili Mansion. The player who achieved this was given an Arab horse decorated with very valuable fabrics.25
Hunting was carried out with three aims: using the animal for food, having the valuable skin of the animal and keeping the wild animals away. There were particular rules established regarding hunting. Hunting would be carried out with arrows or spears with an iron tip or with dogs, leopards, hawks, falcons, or other animals trained for hunting. The hunter was obliged to mention the name of God before he did the shooting or released the animals. If he deliberately did not mention God his hunt would be makruh (revolting). Eating the hunt that was not shot by a Muslim or People of the Book (Ahl al-Kitab) out of the town, in the country or a forest, or the hunt that did not have blood on it when it was captured was not permissible in religion. The animals hunted by faithless people were not edible either.26
Orhan Gazi’s son, Süleyman Pasha, was killed while hunting. Yıldırım Bayezid, Emir Süleyman, Murad I, Murad II, Bayezid II27 and Mustafa II were interested in hunting. It is very well known that Mehmed VI was called “Hunter” due to his interest in hunting. The sultans’ interest in hunting resulted in the establishment of regulated hunting institutions. Şikar aghas who served the sultan were assigned to help with the the task of hunting game. Their duty was to feed and train hunter animals such as falcons, goshawks, and hawks, and to accompany the sultan during the hunt. Zağarbaşı28, who was responsible for hunting dogs, would join the hunting trips of the sultan.29 This organization, called the “şikar halkı (hunting society)”, kept its presence until the early 18th century when the sultans’ interest in hunting diminished.
There were two kinds of sultan hunts. The first were the hunts that were done without any ceremonies, for a short period of time, near the palace, and with only a small group of personnel. The sultans would go on hunts without ceremonies that would last anywhere from one day to a couple of days starting on Mondays and Thursdays. These would take place in the sultan’s gardens called the “Garden of the Palace”. The sultan would be accompanied by his armorer, by aghas who helped the sultan get on and off his horse, by his falconer, his hawker, and his falcon boys as well as some dog attendants who were keepers of the hounds called saxon. The sultan was also accompanied by left-handed people who would use their left hands on the right side of the sultan and right hands on the left side of the sultan. The second were the hunts with ceremonies. They would be organized in accordance with the rules of a battue in the Edirne or Rumelia regions where the forests and animals were plentiful. Battues were organized in order to learn the talents of the sultan’s sons, who serve in districts called sanjaks, to determine if they were trained to go to war. Sometimes, hunts were organized for secret aims. For instance, Kanuni moved to Edirne where the climate was milder in order to hunt and rest in the winter of 1551; however, his real objective was to intimidate Hungary.30
There were three kinds of hunted animals: land animals, winged animals and aquatic animals. The land animals that were hunted were mostly gazelle, lions, tigers, roedeer, deer, mountain goats, foxes and wolves. Winged animals that were hunted were cranes, wild geese, pheasants, partridges and blackbirds. Birds were hunted for their feathers; as a matter of fact, the feathers of herons were used for sultans’ plumed ornaments; the feathers of cranes were used for caps of janissaries; and goose and pigeon feathers were put on the back end of arrows. Parrots and other singing birds were used as accessories in cages in mansions. Some hunting terms have left a lasting impression on military and sports culture, and have commonly been used as metaphors in Turkish literature. The lover whose eyes/look was like an arrow’s, eyebrows like a bow, dimples and moles like a trap, was presented as the hunter.
The palace had an important role in spreading wrestling in Istanbul. Wrestling was one of the ancestral sports that came from Asia. There are records showing that Çelebi Mehmed and Murad II were engaged in wrestling. Şehzade Cem spared most of his time for wrestling. Bayezid II gathered well-known artists and sportsmen from neighboring countries in Amasya by giving them high salaries before he became the sultan and then brought them to Istanbul with him when he became the sultan. Wrestlers were organized into separate divisions under one society called the “society of wrestlers”. Italian Bassano stated that Kanuni had many wrestlers, all of whom had paid salaries. The division of wrestlers existed until the 19th century. However, wrestlers were discarded when the number of the personnel in the wards of the Palace School (Enderun) was reduced due to the saving measurements of Mahmud II. Well-known wrestlers from Anatolia and Rumelia started to come to Istanbul in the period of Sultan Abdulaziz (1861-1876), who had the highest interest in wrestling among the sultans of the last period. Some of these wrestlers were taken into the palace. Sultan Abdulaziz was the first sultan to go on a trip abroad and took two famous wrestlers with him to promote this Turkish sport in Europe. Abdulhamid II (1876-1908) did not allow the presence of wrestlers in the palace; however, he awarded the wrestlers who went to Europe and America through their own means and became successful in international competitions.
Wrestling combines knowledge, intelligence, power, and skills. The combination of these traits makes a successful wrestler. Wrestling came to the forefront as a public sport and was considered noble since it was inexpensive and could be practiced any time. Wrestlers who proved themselves in the suburbs would go to Istanbul because real fame could only be gained through achievements in Istanbul, which was the center of wrestling. There were two kinds of wrestling, wrestling inside the palace and wrestling outside the palace. Wrestling in the palace was called “huzur güreşleri (wrestling before the Sultan)”. Huzur wrestling took place on Mondays and Thursdays following the noon prayer and lunch. If there had to be a victory, wrestlers would try to beat each other using their skills and tactics. If there was no need to compete, wrestling would continue until the sultan wanted the wrestlers to stop.31 The last sultan who witnessed wrestling in accordance with the rules was Mahmud II.
Karakucak (black hug) is a grass wrestling that was prevalent throughout a lot of Turkish history from Oghuz to the Ottomans. Wrestlers were divided into groups depending on their age, strength and competence. Mat wrestling, which is known as free style wrestling today and is a formulated kind of karakucak, started in 1913. A kind of karakucak that is practiced by oiling bodies is called oil wrestling. Spectators enjoyed oil wrestling greatly as it took long for wrestlers to take each other down due to the greasiness of the body. Wrestling with drums and clarions turned into a tradition in order to make it more enjoyable. Another feature of oil wrestling was that it was in accordance with religious values. The fact that wrestlers had ablution and prayed before they went out on the field brought the sport holiness. Announcers who managed this aspect of wrestling in accordance with traditions encouraged wrestlers with various religious and national slogans while also touching the emotions of the spectators.32
Wrestler lodges (tekke) were established in Istanbul in order to protect and promote wrestling and wrestlers. The most famous ones among these lodges were Pehlivan Şüca‘ Tekkesi around Küçükpazar and Pehlivan Demir Tekkesi on the leg of Zeyrek Slope.33 Şüca‘ Lodge, which was constructed during the Fatih Sultan Mehmed’s reign, was the gathering place for wrestlers until the mid-18th century when it was demolished. Viziers, pashas, aghas and owners of feoff would train wrestlers. Some grand viziers had their chamber servants and officers wrestle in Kum Meydanı (Sand square) in Sublime Porte. The locations of the wrestling competitions organized after tarawih prayer in Ramadan were Kasımpaşa, Göksu, Baruthane Çayırı, Şehzadebaşı and particularly Direklerarası, which was the center of Ramadan entertainment. Ramadan wrestling, where wrestlers from all parts of the country competed, continued until 1912. After this, the mat-wrestling trend started. Mat wrestling, which took place in a tent put up in Talimhane Square in Taksim by a group of foreign wrestlers led by Hungarian Çaya,34 was resumed in Istanbul clubs in following years. Wrestlers from Istanbul represented Turkey for many years in international contests during the Republic era.
Rifle shooting, which could be seen in military trainings from the Yıldırım Bayezid’s reign on, was adopted as a sport in the 16th century. Water jugs were targeted in rifle shooting; European gold was sometimes targeted as well.35 There were two kinds of shooting; one of them was shooting the target from a long distance and the second one was in the form of a competition among more than one shooters. Milestones were erected for people who broke records just like in archery. Sultans including Murad IV (1623-1640), Mehmed IV (1648-1687) and Ahmed III (1703-1730) and grand viziers including Nevşehirli Damad İbrahim Pasha were experts in shooting. The division of sultan’s marksmen was set up in the outer palace during the reign of Ahmed III, who was the first sultan to shoot with a rifle. In 1721, Ibrahim Pasha shot at water jugs and displayed his expertise by breaking 20-30 of them when there was a break in the heavy rain during a circumcision ceremony.36 Selim III (1789-1807) fired a rifle during the ceremony for the repair of the Imrahor Mansion. Sultan Selim had a target range established in the vicinity of the mansion later. Furthermore, archery squares in various locations of the city were used for rifle shooting. The reign of Mahmud II, who resumed the work of his predecessor, was a brilliant period for marksmen.37 However, this sport started losing its importance when reforms started after 1826. Marksmanship started improving again towards 1940s. Turkish marksmen started taking part in international competitions after the establishment of the Shooting Sports Federation in 1945. The target range in Istinye raised interest in this sport.
The concept of cudgel, which means “cane, stick and skewer of trainers” in Arabic, was a thick cane with a round tip wrapped with a coat by the Ottomans. The inventor of the cudgel game was Nasûh. Nasûh, who was known primarily a calligrapher, mathematician, geographer, and artist, introduced himself as “Nasûh es-Silâhî el-Matrakî” (Matrakçı Nasûh/Cudgel Player Nasûh) in his book called Gift to Veterans (Tuhfetü’l-guzât), which was on marksmanship. Celalzade Mustafa stated that Matrakçı Nasûh, who stood out among his peers with his courage and technique in weapon and spear games, went to Egypt before and competed with the most favorite cündî horse riders and he was given a certificate by Kanuni as he became a legend just like Rustam.38
According to Evliya Çelebi, who gives the oldest information about the cudgel, the cudgel is made from box trees and is similar to a club, but heavier than a club. The game was played between two people. Players would have the cudgel in their right hand and a circular pillow that would serve as a shield in their left hand. Cudgel players would have helmets on their heads and shields on their faces. Players were expected to show both their attack and defense skills since the aim of the game was to hit the head of the rival as well as defending against possible attacks. There were 10 artisans and 30 people whose work related to this sport in Istanbul. There were free operating cudgel players as well. The most common type of cudgel game, which had many types, was similar to fencing, with compatible and rhythmical movements. The game involved dancing too.39 The aim in the cudgel game, which resembled defense sports of the Far East, was to display some artistic figures to spectators during the game.
The cudgel game was one of the indispensable components of festivals, ceremonies and official receptions. The demonstrations of cudgel players in Atmeydanı in 1529 for the circumcision ceremonies of the sons of Kanuni Sultan Suleyman dazzled spectators. Two portable fortresses were set up in the square; each of the fortresses had 5 towers and 4 gates. 120 armed soldiers were placed in each fortress along with cannon balls and rifles. As the fortresses walked towards the center of Atmeydanı, the cudgel players in them displayed their skills. Gelibolulu Mustafa Âli wrote that in a model castle festival in 1582, javelin and cudgel games were played along with rifle and arrow shooting, and a theatrical war play was displayed.40
Wooden Ball (Tomak)
The most important tool in this game, which started to be played after 1730 in the Ottoman palace, was a buff ball as big as a fist filled with snow felt. This ball was called tomak and it was tied to a 70-80 cm long rope. The game was played between two teams comprised of 6 people. Each player had one tomak. They would hold the handle and try to hit the ball on the back of the rival and the opponent would defend with his arms.The person who was hit on his back with the ball would be disqualified. The success of players was determined according to their agility in the moment of attack and defense. The wooden ball game was usually played on the sultanate trips and on collective trips to recreation areas. The Palace School orchestra played music in order to exhilarate the players. The game did not have certain duration and would end depending on the instruction of the sultan.41 As of the 1810s, Mahmud II, who had many Palace School aghas play wooden ball in the squares of Çinili, İncili, Gülhane and Şimşirlik mansions, had abolished many games after the Auspicious Incident but maintained the wooden ball game for a while.
When the footracing of the Byzantine era came to Anatolia, Turkish people who had experience with horse sports decided that the footrace would also be useful in battle. This understanding led to the birth of a runners’ class called “peyk” or “şatır”. The word peyk, which means messenger in Persian, was used for the mail carrier class in Ottoman palace. In the beginning, they were hired to convey the orders of the sultans due to their ability to run fast. Peyks were considered a part of the sultanate and were used to show off splendor with their plumes and fancy clothes.42
Runners had to be successful in the competitive examination for peyks. They would demonstrate with their corny bare feet and go beyond the form of classical running through some springs and dances. They would carry axes in their hands and keep almonds, sugar candies and rose water with them in order to feed themselves while running.43 Western guests and travelers compared peyks to marathon runners. Gerlack, who wrote about a peyk competitive examination in this diary from 1577, stated that two candidates set out early in the morning; one of them went to Silivri and the other went further than Silivri and they came back around 5-6 in the evening. This 15-hour round trip, which amazed the writer, was equal to 18 German miles. Peyks were not allowed to sit down when they came back and they continued to walk until midnight. Horsemen were assigned to sprinkle water on peyks and clean the obstacles that came into their way during their run. The race ended in Atmeydanı; everybody was offered sorbet while the drums and the clarion were played and racers were presented money and silk garments by the grand vizier.44
Footraces were organized in weddings, ceremonies and ambassador receptions in Istanbul. The distance and the rules of the run were determined at the time of the race. An “infantry race” was organized with the participation of 30 people following the javelin demonstrations within the festivals for the completion of Sadabad Pavilion (1722).The race started at Fil Bridge and ended in front of Ahmed III’s tent.45 During the race, infantry demonstrations and javelin games on horses followed behind the wrestlers.Two years later in Sadabad, which was used as a summer house, the races of run run infantries impressed spectators.46 There were 30-150 peyks in the Ottoman palace between the 16th and 18th centuries. Peyks who were introduced to sports with planned and increased trainings from an early age and who were hired with high salaries after proving their skills in a special competitive examination constituted a distinguished athlete group in terms of their knowledge and culture level as well as practice techniques.47 However, this organization was abolished in 1828.
Regiment Ball Game
This ball game, which dated back to Huns and spread to China, India and finally Europe, is a game played by girls and boys standing in a circle. The main material of the ball is cattle paunch that is cleaned, dried and inflated. According to the rules, the person who throws the ball out of the circle or drops it on the ground is disqualified. The ball game, which spread to the West with Turkish migrations, changed in style once it arrived in Istanbul. Games that involed circular objects being kicked around were not adopted by the Ottomans and even the game of polo was abandoned due to the belief that Huseyin was beheaded and his head was used as ball in Karbala. That said, the “regiment ball game” was still played. In this game, circular balls filled with snow felt that could be held with one hand were used instead of cattle paunch, which was a variation from the classic ball game. In addition, players were not lined up in a circular manner but across from each other. Each team was called a “regiment”. Generally, one of the regiments was constituted by white aghas and the other team was comprised of either harem aghas or the personnel in the wards of the Palace School. The game was played before the sultan in the squares of Topkapi Palace or at the beginning of trips, when a player from the winning side would sing a song. Also, students in Galata and Ibrahim Pasha palaces, where they were prepared for the Palace School, would spend their time outside of classes between mid-afternoon and evening playing ball games.48 After the wooden ball game was played for an hour in Incili Mansion in March 1817, the result was decided and Hızır İlyas Agha sang the victory song.49
Horse races were organized for war preparations and for entertainment purposes. The latter was primarily for weddings and festivals. Races were organized in the form of a long distance run. For instance, three separate races of 3, 4 and 6 hours were organized in the festivals of 1675. Drums and clarions were played and people who came in would be awarded. Horses that ran long distances were selected from well fed and blood horses. Horse races in weddings and festivals in honor of ambassadors continued until the time of Selim III and this practice was terminated in Mahmud II’s era.
The regular horse races which are in compliance with the understanding of the modern day started in Sultan Abdulaziz’s period. Sultan Abdulaziz was passionate about horses as well as wrestling. The demands of the high state officials who took advantage of Sultan Abdulaziz’s love for horses were influential in this. The program for the horse races, which happened over the course of 3 weeks, was published upon the request of the sultan in Special Declaration by the Committee on Horse Races in Dersaadet50 in the newspaper called Cerîde-i Havâdis dating 24 April 1864. Accordingly, 5 types of horse races would take place on the first day. These were the artisan race with an award of 25 lira, the soldiers of the sultan race with a sword award, the sultan race with a 250-lira award, a race organized by women of Beyoğlu giving a 50 lira award, and a cavalrymen race with an award of 20 lira. The races of the second day were the Rumelia race, the ambler race, an 150 lira-award race organized by high state officials, the Jockey Club race, which was the race for strolling horses, and fence jumping horses. There were races in four laps on the last day. The height and weight allowances for the horses to participate, participation rules and other subjects were separately explained.51
Horse races moved away from the agenda of the society like many other sports in Abdulhamid II’s period when domestic and foreign problems grew. After the declaration of Constitutional Monarchy, The Society of Improvement of Horse Breeds was set up by Mahmud Şevket Pasha in 1911 in order to revive the races and improve the breed of the horses. Despite the Balkan Wars, horse races were still organized in Veliefendi Çayırı. Veliahd Yusuf İzzeddin Efendi, the Grand Vizier, ministers, sons of the sultan and a large public crowd watched the races. In November 1913, a horse race was organized for the benefit of the Orphanage that would be established by The Society of Defence of the National Rights in Edirne. Six races organized by The Society of Improvement of Horse Breeds were widely discussed in the media. The following article appeared alongside photographs in İdman magazine about the description of the race venue, participants and the excitement of the crowd:
Veliefendi Çayırı is a convenient location for horse races with a significant amount to spend in the future. There was not a big crowd due to the cold weather and the distance between Istanbul and the location of the races. Nevertheless, sport lovers who comprehended the importance of the day and the ‘Horse Race of Autumn’ were ready at the race. The heir to the throne, Yusuf İzzeddin Efendi, and the Sons of the Sultan Ziyâeddin, Ömer Hilmi, Fuad, and Cemâleddin all honored the races. Particularly, Cemâleddin Efendi who honored us with his presence showed enthusiasm and excitement for this sport. They talked about the races in Italy and the importance given to the sport in Europe in a serious manner. We had hope in our hearts that day as he was the high officer and sportsman of the future. Later, many Turkish ladies attended the races. All the ministers were present. Marshall Osman Pasha, Keçecizâde İzzet Fuad Pasha, Pertev Pasha, and many other members of the military and retired people were there to watch the races. First aide-de-camp Salih Pasha, the head of the Cavalryman department Faik Pasha, and Veterinarian Lieutenant Cemal Bey were in the arbitration committee. Nothing but compliments would be said about the committee that organized the race. Races were carried out in a perfect arrangement in respect to its general committee. Locations were differentiated in a regular way. It was possible to watch the races equally from various locations. The Veliefendi race location was transformed into a very proper place with pavilions for spectators from all parts of the society, a good kiosk and an orchestra space and conservation of the surroundings. The crowd was socializing more impatiently in some places and less in others. When the orchestra took a break, 16 officers went out in turns in order to start the races. The race was carried out with state-owned animals without distinction particular to the officers in their uniforms. Now, everybody started his or her bets and discussions regarding the race. At 1.15, competitors were at their starting points. At 1.25, the bell rang from the arbitrator tower and the sign to move was given. A puzzled silence became prevalent in front of an amazing scene after a minute. Racers passed through the dust clouds running excitingly. Now, people were waiting in a curious silence for the exhausted competitors, one here and one there, and the ones on the attack, ready to pass each other at the first chance. Some people were looking up and down at their rivals with their secondary numbers. Finally, Cavalryman Lieutenant Celal Efendi’s red horse called Jipzip covered the distance of 2200 meters in 3 minutes and finished first. Celal Efendi was telling the story of Jipzip as he was shaking hands with his friends. Jipzip came in first in last year’s competition and it was shot in battlefield on 6 October 328. This year, it came in first again on 6 October with a strange coincidence. After this story, the glorious Jipzip grew in the eyes of people and prayers and greetings were said in honor of his achievement today. Cavalryman Lieutenant Memduh Efendi’s grey horse called Kismet came in the second with a time of 3 minutes and 3 seconds.52
Horse races added a new delicacy to the social life of Istanbul. Races gathered significant people; women who watched the races would sit in the front rows. This situation brought with it the emergence of new behavioral rules.53 The Cavalryman Guild organized horse races regularly until Istanbul was occupied. Veliefendi races started again when Akif Bey reactivated the Cavalryman Guild in 1924 after a period of stagnation for a few years. Horse racing, the sport that has continuously been organized for the longest time in Turkey, is maintained within the body of the Turkey Jockey Club in Istanbul like many other big cities.
Swimming and Water Sports
Archery regulations stressed that a good archer had to learn how to ride a horse and swim at the same. This warning was in accordance with the hadith of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him): “Teach your children to swim and shoot arrows”. Evliya Çelebi stated that swimming competitions were organized in Kâğıthane festivals, which shows that this sport has a history in Istanbul. People in Istanbul were bathing in the sea at Kumkapı and Salacak beaches and they sometimes turned it into a race. Swimming races were common among marines. Barbaros Hayreddin Pasha, who was a very good swimmer himself, had marines swim in their spare time. Animal overalls were used in trainings. Floating on water was considered more important rather than constant swimming in water.54 As the sea baths (beaches) became more common in Mahmud II’s period, swimming became more systematic. The number of sea baths opened for men and women separately exceeded 60 in the second half of the 19th century. The French teacher Moiroux, who worked in the School of the Sultan, taught the students how to swim, which raised interest in this sport. English and Russian families started the trend of swimming with the opposite sex. Fenerbahçe was the first sports club to turn swimming into a regular sport.
The short distance swimming constest started a few weeks before the declaration of the Republic and the Istanbul Swimming Championship was organized in 1928. Moda, Beykoz, Swimming Specialization and Istanbul Water Sportsclubs had achievements in swimming, following Fenerbahce and Galatasaray. The Balkan Swimming Championship took place in Istanbul in various years. Turkish swimmers were succesful within their own country and on a world level in long distance swimming contests (marathons). Due to this success, a traditional competition called the Marmara Swimming Marathon started in Istanbul in 1965. The name of the contest, which gained international recognition two years later, was changed to the International Istanbul Swimming Marathon in 1972. The Europe Swimming Championship took place in Istanbul in 1999. Jumping from heights and springboards became more common in the meantime.
The history of water sports in Istanbul dates back to Murad III (1574-1595). Kayaking contests were organized during the festivals in June 1591 for the opening of the pavilion that the Grand Vizier Sinan Pasha had the Head Architect, Davud Agha, build. The pavilion was built on the city walls that overlooked the sea, close to the Ahirkapi Pier of the palace. 25 kayakers belonging to the grand vizier, viziers, janissary aghas and guards of the sultan attended the contest and awards were given. Grand Vizier Sinan Pasha’s kayak won the contest and Serdar Ferhad Pasha’s kayak came in second. Sailboats competed on the third day of the festivals.55 European water sports started after the Tanzimat Reform Era. Sultan Abdülaziz had a kayaking contest organized in Buyukdere under the supervision of captain pasha in August 1862. Cruisers, sailing boats, infantry caiques, four and six sculled boats and bazaar caiques participated in the competition which was organized in 8 branches. There was a break in kayaking contests during Abdülhamid II’s era and they started again in 1898. The public was greatly interested in the races that took place in Buyukada as well as the 500-600 guests at the seaside of Büyükada and Heybeli Ada. The races were filled with male and female spectators. The vehicles in the sea were decorated with flags. Tercümân-ı Hakîkat described the crowd in Prince’s Islands as natural and was astounded by the stampede on the land describing it “bursting at the seams”. 15 competitions took place depending on the kind of vehicles and awards were given to winners. The ambassadors of France, England, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia and Iran watched the races as well.56
Caique tours that were used to cross the sea from one side to the other or to entertain wealthy families in the Ottoman period were the basis of the sport of rowing. They were not designed for competitions since they were heavy touring caiques usually with long oars. Rowing races would take place on Beykoz, Kadıköy and Moda beaches in the 19th century. French, Italian, German and American boats participated in rowing competitions organized by The Society of Navy in Moda Bay in 1913 in order to promote the peace process following the Balkan Wars. Turkish clubs did not take part in races but the students of Galatasaray and Istanbul highschools competed with the boats they took from foreigners.57 Sultan Mehmed Resad V also watched the races. Fenerbahçe was one of the first clubs that adopted rowing and had a boathouse built in Kuşdili facilities in 1914. When World War I started and the properties of English families in Istanbul were confiscated, the state took possession of boats for sailing and rowing as well. These boats were distributed to Turkish sports clubs. This way, clubs started the sports of rowing and sailing. Fenerbahce won the Sultan Reşad Cup organized by the Society of Navy in Heybeliada in 1917.58
Rowing started to go into a decline with the disintegration of the empire. However, there was a proud development for Turkish sports in 1921 when Stockholm ambassador Asim Turgut Bey’s 12-year-old son Demir Turgut came in first in the youth category of traditional Atter-Sea races. Winning a cup abroad for the first time in such an organization raised hopes towards the future of Turkish sports. Fenerbahçe-Galatasaray rivalry left a mark in rowing in the early years of the Republic. However, this rivalry resulted in being useful in spreading this sport to large masses particularly women.
Sailing was one of the contemporary sports that entered Turkey after the calm years of the Balkan Wars in terms of sports. It started with the construction of sailing clubs in Moda, Büyükada and Bakırköy by the British. Clubs organized the first race in 1913. The first official sailing contest took place in Istanbul in 1932. The King of England Edward VIII who was visiting Turkey in 1936 and Mustafa Kemal watched the water sports and sailing contests organized in honor of the King in Moda Bay. While the sailors used their own boats until 1937, Marine Bank (Denizcilik Bankası) presented new boats to the clubs in 1937. Steps were taken towards specialization in sailing with the establishment of Istanbul sailing club in 1952 and Marmara sailing club in 1956. Traditional Piri Reis Cup races started in 1956. The Balkan Sailing Championship took place in Istanbul in 1968 for the first time.59
Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe clubs were the pioneers of water polo, which started after the Second Constitutional Monarchy. The first known water polo game was between Galatasaray and Bakırköy in the Bakırköy seaside in 1910. Water polo did not catch on in the Imperial period; however, it got into action around 1930s. The first official water polo championship took place in the Büyükdere Lido Sea Pool in July 1931. Galatasary scored 8 goals against Beylerbeyi, 5 goals against Beykoz and 2 goals against Marine School and had its name written for championship. The rivalry continued between Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe after that. This sport, which was practiced in the sea due to the lack of facilities, was able to have limited facilities after the 1950s. Istanbul Swimming Specialization Club represented our country in the Champion Clubs Championship that Turkey took part in 1973 for the first time. The same club became the champion for 10 years consecutively in the Water Polo League that was set up in 1978 with away games. Galatasaray won the Women’s Water Polo Championship in 1987. Today, 6 water polo teams from Istanbul play in the First League.60
Although canoe and offshore, which are modern water sports, are in a narrower frame, they managed to make a strong impression on people.
Athleticism sports entered Istanbul in the 1890s but the organization of competitions in this field was after the declaration of the Second Meşrutiyet era. Gymnastics and track were practiced within the scope of school activities at Galatasaray High School, particularly in their foundation anniversaries. Introductory information was given about athleticism works in Europe in the first sports conference open to the public organized with the initiative of Selim Sırrı and Rıza Tevfik bey in Tepebaşı Millet Garden on 20 September 1908. One year later, there were athleticism and gymnastics demonstrations after a concert in the program organized to help Turks and Armenians who suffered from Armenian attacks in Adana and Aleppo. 100 and 800 m runs, which were a part of the sports festival organized by Fenerbahce that had a pioneer role in athleticism in 1913, were followed by other competitions organized in other branches of athleticism in following years. Altınordu, Şark, Beşiktaş and Fenerbahçe clubs participated in the competitions organized by Şark Club in Union Club in 1915. Shot put, discus, javelin and long jump competitions took place as well as football, cycling and track. Competitions organized by the Kadıköy Society of Union and Sports two years after this event were significant since high statesmen watched the competitions for the first time since Mahmud II’s period. Sportsmen competed in the field of discus, shot put, javelin and Swedish style gymnastics. The incentives of ally German officers in Istanbul had an important role in this liveliness in the sports despite the war.61
Athleticism was one of the branches that developed quickly in the Republican period. The establishment of the Athleticism Federation in 1922, which is one of the first sports institutions of Turkey, is significant. The Istanbul Individual Athleticism Championship, which started in 1924, still continues. Female athletes started appearing in Taksim Stadium as of 1926. Apart from three big clubs, athletes from Harbiye, Eyüp, Süleymaniye, Kumkapı and Military High School clubs participated in competitions in early 1930s. Cross and long distance runs gained importance. The Balkan Athleticism Championship was organized in Istanbul in 1935, 1940, and 1967. The Turkey Marathon Championship, which would soon become traditional, was organized in August 1937. The Balkan Cross Championship was organized in Istanbul in 1993.62
In Turkey, the concept of “gymnastics” after the Tanzimat referred to the body sports deriving from Europe. Sports classes in Turkish schools started in Mahmud II’s era and European style math of the body63 (gymnastics) classes took place in the curriculum of the Military College that opened in 1835. Books published in the West regarding this class were translated in Sultan Abdulaziz’s era. The gymnastics class became obligatory in all junior high schools in accordance with 1869 Statute of Education. Gymnastics and fencing classes were introduced into high schools in 1877. Curel, the physical education teacher of Galatasaray High School, made the gymnastics class obligatory and established a large gymnasium in the school. Moiroux resumed the classes after Curel. Martinetti, who was appointed to replace him, introduced and practiced artistic gymnastics. Faik Bey, who was one of the young people trained in artistic gymnastics in the gymnasium, was the first Turkish physical education teacher to be appointed to the same school. Faik Bey who had served the Turkish sports, particularly athleticism, significantly wrote the first sports history book called Jimnastik yahud Riyaziyât-ı Bedeniyye in 1899.64 In following years, Faik (Üstünidman) and Selim Sırrı (Tarcan) Bey taught gymnastics classes in Galatasaray High School.
The gymnastics group that came from Germany to Istanbul in Abdulhamid II’s era had a significant role in the development of gymnastics. Gymnasiums became more common in military schools and they were equipped with stable and moving stairs, poles, balance beams, trapezes, horizontal bars, wooden horses, weights, shot puts and many other tools.65 The foundation of the Tatavla Heraklis Gymnastics Club by the Greeks in 1896 is considered the start of athleticism in Turkey. 8 sportsmen took part in the Athens Olympics representing the Ottoman State in 1906 and Yorgo Alibrantis won the gold medal, breaking the world and Olympic records with 11.4 seconds in 10m rope climbing.66 The establishment of Beşiktaş Bereket Gymnastics Club in 1903 and Fenerbahçe’s interest in gymnastics in 1914 enabled the appearance of favorite gymnasts.
Selim Sırrı Bey was appointed to organize gymnastics at schools in the Republican period. Sportsmen were sent to Sweden to enable them to learn rhythmic gymnastics. Experts such as Naili Moran and Mazhar Kazancı educated the youth in gymnastics in Beyoğlu, Eminönü, and Kadıköy community centers. The community centers were shut down after the 1950 elections, which had a big impact on this sport, and gymnasts could not find a practice hall. The gymnastics sport started improving again but with a more precise identity and more consciously this time, with the establishment of Artistic Gymnastics Club in 1957 and the Gymnastics Federation in 1960. Federal German and Turkish national gymnastics teams competed in Istanbul in 1965. Artistic and rhythmic gymnastics showed improvement after 1970s. The first rhythmic gymnastics championship took place in Istanbul in 1984. The International Artistic Boğaziçi Tournament, which started in 1986, became a tradition.67
Football was played in Thessaloniki and Izmir in Turkey in the 1870s for the first time and it was played by the British, Armenian and Greek youth in Istanbul. After James Lafontaine introduced football to Izmir, he settled in Istanbul in 1899 and the game started to be played in Istanbul as well. While the English, the Greek and the Armenian clubs of Kadıköy were playing football in Moda Çayırı, Turkish youth were either playing with them secretly or just watching them. The reserved state of the Turks resulted from the contradiction between football and general customs, and pressure of Abdulhamid II’s era, because people who played football were reported to Yıldız Palace.
Despite this situation, a group of Turks led by Fuad Hüsnü and Reşad Danyal set up the first football team of Istanbul in Kadıköy in 1901. The jersey of the club, which was named Black Stocking Football Club in order not to be caught by detectives, was red and white, and the socks were black. Loosing a match by receiving 5 goals in the match against the Greeks in Papaz Çayırı disappointed football fans. The match did not escape the detectives’ notice and when the journal reporting about Turkish boys stated “they set up goal posts across from each other and were wearing the same clothes as the Greeks, they were training by throwing the ball around…” arrived in Yıldız, Abdulhamid had each boy exiled to a different region.68 The club “which was comprised of only Turkish lineage” as expressed by Fuad Bey was dispersed after their first and only match. Fuad Hüsnü, who somehow got away from the exile, did not give up his passion for football and joined Moda Club of the British. He played as a striker for years with the name Bobby and did not get caught by reporters. Fuad Hüsnü, who is considered to be the first Turkish football player of Turkey, tells how the public and the political authority viewed football then and why they had to keep his activities a secret in 1913 in the following article:
During those sorrowful days when the gathering was considered an offense and the club was considered the source of corruption, a limited number of talented young men took a fancy to this sport and their feet touched the ball called the football for the first time. This sport was not favored then. A few boys played the ball in meadows barelegged which caused the hostile view from the public. Old people would consider football players who they described as “barelegged” to be sinful; ladies would turn their heads with shame and old ladies would pass by the players, either advising them or reprimanding them.69
The British and some Greeks from Istanbul set up Kadıköy Football Club in 1902. British people separated from the club when there was a conflict among them and they established Moda Club in 1903. In 1904, Elpis club of the Greek and Imogene club of the British embassy personnel was set up. Constantinople Football Association League was realized for the first time under the presidency of Lafontaine during 1904-1905 seasons. Imogene became the champion of the league which Kadikoy, Moda, Elpis and Imogene teams took part in.
A group of Galatasaray High School students comprised of Emin, Asım, Celal, Bekir led by Ali Sami established Galatasaray Club in October 1905. Although students offered the names of Glory and Audace in order to conceal themselves at first, they agreed on the name Galatasaray.70 They had another problem in determining the color of the jerseys. Ali Sami Bey depicted how they got over this difficulty in this article eight years later:
It was pretty difficult to name the club and decide on the color of its jersey since people would interpret the meaning of each name and color. However, when the club started playing, the public named it Galatasaray. The efforts to change the name that would naturally attract lots of attention were fruitless and everybody continued to call the club of Galatasaray High School students. The first jersey of Galatasaray was white and red. However, the jersey was changed to yellow and black and then red and yellow for it to be brighter assuming white and red would be considered as a riot flag.71
The biggest desire of Galatasaray was to play with Kadıköy and defeat the Greeks. However, they lost the match 13-0. The club buckled down their efforts more and one year later “it had the first real and glorious victory after defeating the individuals of Imogene attendants’ ship, which was a genuine British team in Kuşdili Çayırı. Pleasure and enthusiasm of football gradually filled the hearts of Turks and Istanbul youth”.72 Galatasaray would become the Istanbul champion for the first time after defeating Kadikoy 4-0 in the 1908-1909 season.
The second Turkish team that joined Istanbul League was Fenerbahçe, which was founded in 1907. Although Beşiktaş Bereket Gymnastics Club was founded in 1903, it did not have the football branch until Şerif Bey united Valideçeşme and Basiret teams in 1911. The other football clubs founded are as follows: Anadolu in Üsküdar in 1907; Beykoz and Vefa in 1908, Terakki in 1909, Altınörs in 1910, Beylerbeyi and Süleymaniye in 1911, Hilal Gençlik and Telefoncular in 1912, Anadoluhisarı and Maccabiin in 1913, Darüşşafaka in 1914, Eyüpspor in 1917, Feriköy in 1919, İttihad and Topkapı in 1920, Kasımpaşa in 1921, Sarıyer in 1923, Karagümrük in 1926, Pendik in 1927, Alibeyköy in 1936, Sarıyer in 1940, Adalet in 1946, Kartal and Bakırköy in 1949, Zeytinburnu in 1953, and İstanbul Büyükşehir Belediyespor in 1990. The name of Terakki was changed to Altinordu in 1914. Altınörs and Sanatkarân Gücü clubs founded by Sultanahmet Arts School students were united in 1913 and named Turan Sanatkarân Gücü.73 Galatasaray-Fenerbahçe rivalry started on 17 January 1909 and Galatasaray won the game 2-0 that was played in Papaz Çayırı.
The relationship between football and politics showed itself even during the development stage of the sport. For instance, it is thought provoking that Elpis adopted the blue and white colors of the Greek flag and Telefoncular Club of the British technicians and workers who set up Istanbul Telephone Company adopted the yellow and black colors of the Byzantine flag. Furthermore, the executives and football players of Üsküdar Anadolu Club fulfilled an important national service by enabling the weapons and ammunition that they secretly carried while crossing from one side to the other on boats during the years of War of Independence to be received by the National Forces in Anatolia.
The branch that left a mark on sports during the Republican era was football, and the most important part of football was the domination of Istanbul teams. Fenerbahçe finished the 1922-1923 Friday League undefeated and when they scored they made the country proud. Fenerbahçe beat the English team and won the cup in the football cup organized for General Harrington who was the commander-in-chief of occupation forces. There were 24 teams in the Istanbul League in the early years of the Republic. When a club archive as well as more than 100 cups and many plates were burned as a result of fire in the club building of Fenerbahçe in Kurbağalıdere in 1932, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk started an aid campaign for Fenerbahçe and he donated 300 lira himself. Beşiktaş went to America and Galatasaray went to England in 1950. When Şükrü Gülesin from Beşiktaş was transferred to the Italian team Lazio, Turkish football started exceeding the country borders. As a matter of fact, Lefter from Fenerbahçe was transferred to Fiorentina in 1951.
Istanbul League was closed after 1950-1951 season when Beşiktaş became the champion. This way, Fenerbahçe became the champion 13 times, Beşiktaş and Galatasaray 11 times in the league that was operated for 43 seasons between 1940 and 1951. Kadıköy and Altınordu shared the championship twice and Imogene, Moda, İstanbulspor and Güneş teams shared it once. Istanbul Professional Football League started on 5 January 1952 after Football Professional Regulation, which was put to effect the same year. Beşiktaş was the champion of the first year when Beşiktaş, Galatasaray, Fenerbahçe, Vefa, Beykoz, İstanbulspor, Kasımpaşa and Emniyet teams competed. Beşiktaş and Fenerbahçe were crowned the champion three times and Galatasaray was the champion twice in this league that lasted 8 years. Turkey National League was formed with the participation of the first 8 teams of Istanbul and the first 4 teams of Izmir in 1959. Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe, which were the leaders of two groups named Red and White, played for the championship. Galatasaray won the first game 1-0 with Metin Oktay’s goal that tore the goal net. Fenerbahçe defeated its rival in the return match with 4-0 and became the first league champion. When Turkey League was divided into two groups in the 1962-1963 season, Istanbul teams stayed in the first league. The name of this league was changed to Super League as of the 2001-2002 season. Istanbul teams were crowned the champion 48 times between 1959-2013 as follows: Galatasaray 19 times, Fenerbahçe 18 times, Beşiktaş 11 times. The most important achievement in Europe cups was Galatasaray’s UEFA championship in 2000. Galatasaray won the Super Cup defeating Real Madrid the same year. Galatasaray played in quarterfinals five times in Champion Clubs’ Cup. Fenerbahçe played in quarterfinals twice and it was eliminated in semifinals in the 2012-2013 season.
Volleyball and basketball, both rooted in America, entered Turkey due to the close relationship between the Turkish representative of the YMCA,74 Dr. Deaver, and Selim Sırrı Bey. This sport started at schools firstly and spread to large masses in the Republican era. The first volleyball game was played in the sports hall of YMCA’s Çarşıkapı building in 1919 and the first championship was organized the same year. The Ottoman Orphanage won the championship in these games organized among schools and The School of Engineers became the champion the 3 following consecutive years.
Istanbul League was organized in the 1923-1924 season with the sports clubs welcoming volleyball one by one and the first champion was Beşiktaş. Fenerbahçe, Galatasaray, Beşiktaş, Pera, St. Benoit, Vefa, Yeni Yıldız, Etoile and Amerikan clubs competed in the Volleyball League in this period. Beşiktaş became the champion for 4 consecutive years and Fenerbahçe for 3 consecutive years. Turkey Championship was organized as of 1948; and the women’s championship started in the 1954-1955 season. While the rivalry was mostly between Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe in every championship, Darüşşafaka, Vefa, and Eczacıbaşı teams had important achievements as well. Eczacıbaşı became the champion in the Women’s League for 17 consecutive years, which was an unprecedented achievement in the world. The Turkey Volleyball League with away games started in 1970-1971. IETT made its mark during the first years of the league with 13 teams. The Women’s League that was set up in 1977-1978 ended with the victory of Eczacıbaşı for 12 uninterrupted years. Eczacıbaşı women’s volleyball team came in second in Europe Champion Clubs in 1980.75
An American teacher had the students play basketball in the gymnasium of Robert College in 1904 and it stayed within this entourage for a while. Galatasaray High School Physical Education Teacher Ahmet Robenson had his students play this game in 1911, but most of the students got injured. Istanbul was really introduced to basketball through Dr. Deaver in 1920. American and Turkish teams had a basketball match in the schoolyard of Higher Teacher Education School on 4 April 1921 and Americans won the game by 18-14. While the American team was comprised of YMCA members and the teachers of Robert College, the Turkish team was comprised of people who learned basketball in YMCA and who were led by Ahmed Robenson.76
The basketball teams in Istanbul were limited to the teams of minorities such as Kurtuluş, Pera, Maccabi, Protkeba and Italian Kartal clubs, which were separate from Galatasaray, Nişantaşı and Fenerbahçe. Istanbul Basketball League was formed in 1927 and the first champion was Maccabi team of Jews. When the Basketball League became official, the teams of minorities were left outside of the league. Galatasaray became the champion for the first 4 years. Istanbul hosted the International Basketball Tournament for 4 years in 1950s in connection with the 500th anniversary of the conquest of Istanbul. This process increased the interest in basketball and introduced new challenging teams. Darüşşafaka and Moda joined the contest between the two archrivals. As a matter of fact, Daruşşafaka became the champion in 1962. Galatasaray, Fenerbahçe, İTÜ, Kadıköyspor, PTT and Kurtuluş teams from Istanbul took part in the league with away games set up in the 1966-1967 season. While Ankara and Izmir teams held the title of champion until the 1990s, the domination of ITÜ, Eczacıbaşı and particularly Ülker, started in 1994. At the end of the 1978-1979 season when Efes Pilsen became the champion, Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray did not have any good achievements since the beginning of the league and were guaranteed to fall into the second league since they were ranked as the last two teams. The Federation thought this situation would affect the basketball sport negatively and ensured that these two teams stayed in the league by raising the number of the teams in the league to 16 with a resolution. Galatasaray and Efes Pilsen had the highest number of championships in Women’s League. Efes Pilsen played in the Europe Champion Clubs Cup final in 1992-93. Efes Pilsen made people proud as the first Turkish team to win a cup in Europe in the Europe Korac Cup in 1996. Beşiktaş Basketball Team had the second most important achievement by winning the FIBA 2011-2012 Euro Challenge cup.
Handball was played in schools in Turkey in 1923 for the first time and it had the chance to go out of schools when some clubs took an interest in the sport. Istanbul Handball League was formed in 1942-1943 and Defterdar team became the first champion. İstanbul Bankası Yenişehir, one of the important representatives of handball, proved itself in European handball after defeating Italian Tacca and Brixen in 1981. Vefa Simtel, Arçelik, İTÜ, Beşiktaş and Taçspor teams of Istanbul were influential in the Handball League with away games formed in 1982. İstanbul Bankası Yenişehir had the first championship. The Women’s League started after a while and Handball Second League started in 1987-1988.
Boxing is one of the youngest sports of Turkey and it started in the 1910s. Boxers such as Kenan, Hüseyin, Hüsnü, Haydar, Şevket, Şekib, Said and Kemal Begof were trained with different contributions, particularly those of Beşiktaş Club. When the boxing competitions between the representatives of Entente States and Turkish youth after the Treaty of Mondros turned into voracity, it raised the interest in this sport. Turkish spy Esat (Tomruk) and military medical student Yavuz Ismet (Uluğ) who defeated the boxers of Entente states many times were among the primary people who made people love boxing. Jewish Aksiyani established the first boxing club in Istanbul in 1919. The first matches took place in theatre halls and hotels in Beyoglu. Later, a ring was built in Fenerbahçe Kuşdili Çayırı. Zeynelabidin (Akandere) opened a private boxing school in 1920 and enabled many boxers to be trained in a short time.
Boxing, which became common with the support of the British and the French as well as the hostility towards them during the last years of the empire, developed in a major way with the establishment of Boxing Federation in 1923. The knockout of Romanian Karpen by Küçük Kemal in Istanbul in 1929 led to high hopes. While Fenerbahçe, Galatasaray and Beşiktaş started additionally engaging in boxing; Vefa, Beşiktaş, Alemdar, Kumkapı and Kurtuluş clubs were engaged only with this sport. The International Istanbul Boxing Tournament, the first of which was organized in 1986, continues in Istanbul with the name International Ahmet Cömert Boxing Tournament, named in memory of our Olympics champion who passed away in 1990.
The British had influence on the entrance of tennis into Istanbul during modernization period. Tennis started as competitions between families in the courts built around Moda and Bebek and people started playing it in a professional court built in the yard of Tokatliyan Hotel’s summerhouse in Tarabya later. The establishment of Kadıköy, Bebek, Osmanbey and Taksim tennis clubs and Fenerbahçe’s formation of a tennis team in 1914 livened up this sport up. The matches, particularly under the shadow of political events during the occupation years, witnessed some challenging games between Turkish tennis players and their foreign rivals. Fenerbahçe contributed greatly to the advancement of tennis in the Republican era and the 1932 Balkan Tennis Championship took place in the courts of this club. When the Fenerbahçe courts were burned down, tennis went into a decline. Thereupon, Tennis, Fencing and Mountaineering Club took the sport under its protection. The Istanbul International Tennis Tournament initiated by the club became traditional. Table tennis was played in Robert College in 1929 for the first time. One year later, Altınordu Club organized a tennis tournament and 16 sportsmen from Altınordu, Fenerbahçe, Galatasaray and Istanbulspor took part in the tournament. Beyoğlu, Vefa, Kurtuluş, Ortaköy, Tarabya and Şişli clubs formed their own table tennis teams in the 1940s. The first official Istanbul Table Tennis Championship was organized in 1948-1949.
It didn’t take long for cycling to become a sport after it entered Istanbul in 1885. A race was even organized in Tepebaşı Garden in 1893. When the races, with the condition of 120 tours around the garden, became a means of betting and gamling, it was forbidden by a state resolution. When Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray opened their doors for this sport in early 1910s, the races started again. However, cycling went into a decline again due to the World War since the export of bicycles from the West to Turkey stopped and people had difficulty providing spare parts and tires for available bicycles.77 The cycling sport was revived after 1926 when bicycle tours were allowed in the athleticism track of Taksim Stadium. The first national races were organized with Bulgarians in the same place one year later. Cavid Bey, who fell off his bike shortly before the finish, ran with his bike on his back and came in first, which made history.
Although Istanbul is the center of motorcycle sport, this sport had remained obscure until recently. The races organized in Veliefendi in 1930s did not attract too much attention and no Turkish motorcyclists participated in the Balkan Countries Race that took place in Istinye in 1967. However, with the foundation of Istanbul Motocross Specialization Club and the incentive of Jawa Company that discovered the potential in Istanbul, and with the sacrifices of Süleyman Yelkenkaya and Cahit Görgüler, who were the pioneers of motorcycling, this sport was revived.
The number of automobiles in Istanbul during the last years of the empire was over 1000 and it turned into a sport with the foundation of the Turkish Traveler Association in 1923. This institution whose name was changed to Turkey Touring and Automobile Club took the lead in advancing this sport. The first race took place in Bakırköy in 1927. Professional races started three years later. First motorcycle and then automobile races were organized on a 9-km racetrack between Istinye-Maslak and Istinye Bridge-Zincirlikuyu. Female drivers Saniye and Cahit left men behind and won the race in 1931. The first leg of the Balkan Rally was in Istanbul in 1938. The Anatolia Rally organized by Touring Club also started in Istanbul. The Gunaydin Turkey Rally started in 1972. Istanbul gained an important place worldwide in terms of its racetracks and sportsmen in these races that became traditional.78
The founder of cart racing sport is Cem Hakko, who was introduced to this sport during his school years in Switzerland. In 1986, Cem Hakko and Cem Güvendiren arranged the cart racing track in Tuzla that is still being used. Hakko won the Turkey Cart Racing Championship organized the same year and attended by 9 sportsmen. The number of people interested in the sport increased quickly in a short time with the help of media but it still stayed in a small environment. One of the youngest of motor sports, offroad, was seen in the 1980s. The race, sponsored by TTOK and Camel Company and organized in Sarıyer with an attendance of 32 vehicles in the 1987-1988 season, was a race of broad participation. Another significant development in this field was the foundation of Istanbul Offroad Club in 1993.
Fencing, which was one of the first comtemporary sports to enter Istanbul, was the product of Teacher Hüsnü’s efforts. Hüsnü Bey was interested in this sport and learned about it from foreign officers in order to improve himself. He had such a talent for it that he had the title of first Turkish fencer. Hüsnü Bey transferred his knowledge to his students and the first Turkish fencers encountered Italian fencers before Abdulhamid II in Yıldız Palace in 1903. Abdulhamid II was proud of the achievements of young students against experienced Italians and gave them awards; he wanted the sport of fencing to be included in the curriculum of all military schools. Furthermore, the first fencers were among founders of Beşiktaş Gymastics Club. Fenerbahçe opened its doors to fencing in early 1920s. The fencers trained by Belarussian Colonel Grodetski achieved success.79 Beşiktaş Club gained superiority in both male and female fencing in the 20th century. The first female sportsmen to qualify for the Olympics were fencers. The International Istanbul Fencing Tournament has been organized since 1963.
Ali Faik, who was among first people to learn weightlifting taught by Moiroux at Galatasaray High School, is also known as the first Turkish weightlifter. The first club to open its doors to weightlifting was Beşiktaş. More accurately, volunteers who founded the club were also the people who were fans of weightlifting. Fenerbahçe’s inclusion of weightlifting into the club helped the sport advance.
The history of golf that is played mostly among embassy staff and foreigners in Istanbul can be compared to the history of Istanbul Golf Club founded in 1895. The fourth oldest golf club and 12-hole golf course of the club that was the first organized institution in Turkish sports were in Okmeydanı. Although golf became more common with the foundation of Boğaziçi Golf Club in 1911, the first club shut down during the World War and the other one shut down in 1923, which led golf to fall from favor. Istanbul Golf Club was founded again with the initiative of the Consulars of England and the USA in 1923. However, golf has been favored by a group of foreigners and wealthy people in Istanbul but hasn’t been able to spread to large masses. The Golf Club with 713 members, 211 of whom are women, has been active in Maslak since 2010.80
Hockey started to be played in Istanbul after the declaration of the Second Meşrutiyet. The game has three types and the first type is the field (grass) hockey. Istanbul Hockey League was founded with the support of Fenerbahçe, Galatasaray, Altınordu, Anadolu, Nişantaşı, Anadoluhisarı and many other teams. Hockey matches took place with or without rollerskates. Although Turkey National Hockey team applied for the tournament in Geneva in 1925, they couldn’t participate in it due to the delay in correspondence.81
During the last years of the Ottoman Empire, judo was one of the sports generally taught in military schools in order to improve defense methods. The systematic practice of judo, which was a different style of aba82 wrestling that had been practiced by Turks in the Middle East, began in 1960 and it started spreading from military surroundings to the public with the foundation of Judo Federation in 1966. When taekwondo and karate started spreading fast, this led judo to go into a decline. Women were more interested in judo in the 1980s. In addition to this, judo started to be taught as a separate branch in the sports school of Marmara University, which gave it a scientific identity. A group of Koreans introduced taekwondo where hand and foot movements are significant. While taekwondo was under the roof of the Wrestling Federation, an independent Taekwondo Federation was founded in 1981 and it became common very quickly. The third defense sport, karate, joined in the Judo Federation the same year. The Europe Karate Championship took place in Istanbul in 1985. The International Boğaziçi Karate Championship started in 1988. While this tournament became traditional and still occurs today, Istanbul hosted the Balkan Karate Championship in 1996 and 1998 and the Europe Championship in 2000. Istanbul Büyükşehir Belediyespor won Europe Clubs’ Championship in Paris in 1996 and became the world champion one year later.
Other Contemporary Sports
Games such as cricket and rugby, which were played by the soldiers of Entente States and by the British during occupation years, didn’t last long since they went into a decline when the invaders withdrew. Ice sports are the sports that entered Istanbul the latest due to its climate. The facilities that opened in the 1980s raised interest in iceskating and the first iceskating competition was organized in Boğaziçi Skating Facilities in 1989. Ice hockey started following artistic skating and Istanbul had only one team in the Ice Hockey League, which was comprised of primarily Ankara teams. Istanbul Skating Club became the champion of the league in 1997-1998. Badminton and triathlons are in the development stage in Istanbul.
Istanbul’s Sports Events Locations
While the support and prizes given to athletes by Ottoman sultans who were active in sports culture was influential in directing the public towards sports, facilities built with the incentive of the state livened up the city life as well. The garden of the Old Palace, which was built after Fatih’s conquest of Istanbul in Istanbul University’s current location, was used for sporting events. Ağa Garden Square, Gülhane Square, Kabak Square in front of Gülhane Pavilion, Yalı Mansion Square, and Kıztaşı Square in Topkapı Palace all hosted sporting events. The sports locations that came to the forefront outside of the palace were Okmeydanı in Kasımpaşa, Kavak Palace Garden in Üsküdar, Sadabad Pavilion in Kağıthane, Tokat Garden in Beykoz, Dolmabahçe Square and Çinili Mansion Square.
Fatih established Okmeydanı when he conquered Istanbul in accordance with the tradition of setting up an arrow square in the places conquered by the Ottomans. The field that the square was located in was bought and expropriated after paying twice. While Bayezid II expanded the square, he had foundations added to the mosque built by Fatih. His Vizier Iskender Pasha had a lodge built for archers in a part of the square. Gürcü Mehmed Pasha had an open-air prayer space built in the square in 1625 and Ahmed III had a fountain with an open-air prayer space built in 1704. Okmeydanı, which was essentially designed for archery but was convenient for different sports activities, is the oldest sports facility of Turkish Istanbul. The largest field of the square of 1100 laps was allocated for archery trainings and competitions. Rifle shooting practices took place in the square with the spread of firearms as well as wrestling, javelin, horse races, and track and field sports such as jumping and running. Considering that Fatih devoted this field to the public for strolls and relaxation, it is understood that the place was open to activities apart from sports. The public used Okmeydanı as a recreation area and to host big official celebrations and palace festivals. Furthermore, it became a shelter for disaster victims in disaster times and people who escaped from fires and earthquakes. Rain prayers took place here in the times of drought.
When Fatih Sultan Mehmed conquered Istanbul, he didn’t touch the Hippodrome and arranged it in a way for it to be convenient for horse riding sports. This is why it was called Atmeydanı (Horse Square). Janissaries, cavalrymen, horse riders of the palace and the viziers used this area for training and young people and children learned how to ride horses, shoot arrows and throw javelin here. Atmeydanı hosted weddings and circumcision ceremonies, victory celebrations, and demonstrations for foreign guests and ambassadors. Also, some riots started here. After janissaries were abolished, Ahmediye Square and Sultanahmet Square were preferred rather than the name Atmeydanı in order not to be reminded of their riots.
Horse races took place in Uzunçayır in Kadıköy and Veliefendi Çayırı in Bakırköy. Veliyüddin Efendi, the owner of Veliefendi Çayırı, which is still used for horse races, was appointed as the Sheikh al-Islam in 1706 after serving as a Muslim judge and qadi’asker. Sultan Mustafa III exiled him to Bursa for a while; but when the sultan realized that he had been unfair to him, he was appointed back to the same office and the sultan lavished gifts on him. Veliyüddin Efendi donated his wealth of treasure due to the extravagantness of his children and advised that the Sheikh al-Islam Farm outside of the city walls be turned into a recreation area for the public. People of Istanbul used this area for recreation for years and they named the place as Veli Efendi Çayırı in regard to the memory of Sheikh al-Islam. Enver Pasha had a wooden tribune built in a corner of the meadow in 1911. The race area, which is known today as Veliefendi Hippodrome, is built on a field of 596 laps. It has 2.020 m. grass, a 1.870 m. sand course and a 1.720 m. training course. Two tribunes across from each other accommodate nearly 7000 spectators. The facility had 1190 barns, 12 of which are in accordance with international standards, and a horse hospital.83
Today, Istanbul is a city with stadiums in accordance with European and Olympic standards. The story of Taksim stadium, which was the first stadium in Istanbul, is interesting. Taksim Stadium was in Taksim Barracks’ yard, which was located in the place of Taksim Park today. I. Artillery Regiment was in the same place before. Senegalese soldiers who served as French troops stayed there during Istanbul’s invasion and its name was changed to Makmahon Barracks. After the occupants left, Russian migrants (Belarussians), organized horse races and chariot races in the yard of the barracks. The yard of Taksim Barracks was turned into a stadium in 1921 upon the suggestion of Çelebizade Said Tevfik Bey, the owner of The World of Sports magazine, in the period when there was a high interest in football. Two wooden tribunes were built with a capacity of 8000 people. Taksim Stadium hosted nine national matches until 1936 but was demolished when Lutfi Kırdar was the governor. Cem Atabeyoğlu describes the stadium in Turkish sports history as follows:
The veteran Taksim Stadium, reconstructed from the yard of Artillery Barracks, where there were all kinds of unimagined sports events and demonstrations from training festivals to camel wrestling, from football matches to riding contests, from cycling contests to wrestling and pankration contests, from athleticism competitions to boxing matches, from oil wrestling to motorcycling races and even to firefighting demontrations where they started fires in the shelters built in the middle of the stage and famous performer Komik-i Şehîr Nâşit Bey acted as the old watchman, witnessed many “firsts”. The first national match was played in this stadium (26 October 1923, Turkey-Romania 2-2). The first national cycling competition was in this stadium (1927, Turkey-Bulgaria). The first horse riding contact was also in this stadium (7-9 September 1933, Turkey-Bulgaria). The first night football game was played in this veteran stadium on the night of 9 September 1939…84
All big clubs built their own stadiums in the Republican era. İnönü Stadium, constructed according to the plan of Italian architect Vietti Violi in the place where the barns of Dolmabahçe Palace were located, came into service in 1947. The demolition of the stadium started in June 2013 in order to build a new one that better met the needs of the city. Çukurbostan in Karagümrük was turned into a stadium in 1926 and was given to Karagümrükspor first and then Vefa Club in 1942. Its name was changed to Vefa Stadium. Today, it is still being used by Karagümrük. While Galatasaray was using Ali Sami Yen Stadium, which was completed in 1964 in Mecidiyeköy, it moved to Türk Telekom Arena Stadium in 2011. Ali Sami Yen was demolished the same year. The facility that had various names such as Silahtarağa Çayırı, Papazin Çayırı, Union Club Field and İttihad Spor Field in the Ottoman period was given the name Fenerbahçe Stadium in 1929. The stadium was sold to Fenerbahçe Club in exchange for 1000 Reshad Gold (9000 lira) collected through the aid campaign initiated by Atatürk. In this respect, Fenerbahçe was the first team to possess a stadium. When the stadium became inadequate for the demand in 1965, it was demolished and it opened again in 1983 after a 17-year construction. The tribune capacity was increased after 2000; heating and protection systems were modernized and its name was changed to Şükrü Saraçoğlu Stadium.
Significant Developments and Achievements in Republican Era
Istanbul witnessed many contemporary sports activities in the Republican era; it attained lots of modern facilities and hosted several international sports activities. The Balkan Games, the first of which took place in Athens in 1929 in the form of multiple sports events so as to strengthen the relationship between Balkan countries, were organized in Istanbul in 1935, 1940, 1955, 1967, 1990, 1999 and 2004. The Istanbul Sport and Exhibition Center, which was opened in 1949, hosted the Europe Free Wrestling Championship organized in the same year. This event was organized in Istanbul again in 1967 and 1993. The World Free Wrestling Championship was organized in Istanbul in 1956, 1957, 1974, 1994 and 2011. The Boğaziçi Swimming contest was initiated at a national level by the Turkey National Olympics Committee in 1989 and became international in 1991. This intercontinental sport, in which participants aim to swim from Asia to Europe, is a first. The Balkan Eventing Championship was organized in Istanbul in 1968 for the first time. It took place in Istanbul again in 1985, 1992, 1995 and 2000; furthermore, the Volvo World Cup, which is an eventing contest with broader participation, took place in Istanbul. The Balkan Markmanship Championship was organized in Istanbul in 1987 and 1993 in addition to the Europe Boxing Championship that took place in Istanbul in 1998. One of Istanbul’s most important international events is Eurosia Marathon that has been organized regularly since 1979. The marathon became a paid event in 1985. The establishment of the Turkish Athleticism Foundation with the money collected from the marathon, in other words with the participation of 7000 people, is significant. The money collected in 1999 was used for the victims of the earthquake. Participation in the marathon increased every passing year. 12.500 people participated in 1994, 150.000 people participated in 1998 and 270.000 people from 85 countries participated in 2010. Those are substansial icreases for an event that started with only a few thousand people.
Women who benefited from the rights given to them in the Republican era showed high participation in sports events. Women started getting involved in sports through their sportsman relatives. For instance, while the sisters of Galatasaray athletes started training in track and field in Taksim Stadium in 1927, the sisters and spouses of Fenerbahçe athletes started playing tennis in the cement courts of the club. Women of Fenerbahçe made a name for themselves in rowing as well. Three sisters named Melek, Nezihe and Fitnat didn’t give anyone else a chance to win the championship in rowing. There was a woman, Sabiha Rifat, on the Fenerbahçe volleyball team that became the Istanbul champion in 1929. Suad Fetgeri and Halet Çambel, who became champions in fencing after training in Beşiktaş Club in 1930s, participated in Berlin Olympics in 1936 and they were the first female athletes to take part in Olympics.85
There was a boom in the sports media in the Second Meşrutiyet era; after Futbol was published in 1910, Terbiye ve Oyun, İdman, Sipahi Mecmuası and Spor Âlemi magazines started their publications one after another. New ones joined in sports media on various dates during the Republican era. Suad Hayri Bey published Şa Şa Şa in 1925 and Refik Osman published Gol one year later. Olimpiyat followed Türkspor, which were the first sports magazine published in the new Turkish in 1929. They merged in the early 1930s and continued their publication with the name Top. While Kırmızı-Beyaz and Spor Postası started publication in 1937, Fenerbahçe’s secretary general Hayri Celal Atamer started publishing Sarı-Lacivert. After Futbol and Sporcu magazines in 1938, Stad, Beden Terbiyesi and Spor started their publication in 1939, Şut in 1944 and Türk Spor Mecmuası in 1947. Türkiye Spor, which was the first daily sports newspaper, started publication in 1954. It was followed by Spor newspaper. Weekly Gelişim Spor was set up in 1985, and daily Fotospor in 1991 and Fotomaç in 2000. Although Fotomaç merged with Taraftar which was set up a while after Fotomaç and continued publication with the name Taraftar Fotomaç, it went back to its original name in 2005. AMK, which started publication in 2012, is still the youngest daily sports media organization. Also, sports encyclopedias were published on different dates. Radio Sport started broadcasting in 1992.
A live match broadcast took place on 6 August 1934 for the first time. While Istanbul Radio broadcasted the Fenerbahçe-WAC (Austria) match live, the announcer Eşref Şefik put his stamp on history as the first sports presenter. The first night match was between Fenerbahçe and Beyoğlu and the field was lit through lamps erected on the corners of Taksim Stadium. Sports Writers Union was constituted in Istanbul in 1964 and Adnan Akın was selected the chairman. Turkey Athleticism Foundation was founded in 1986, Sailing Foundation in 1994 and Turkey Football Foundation in 1995. Incorporation started in Turkish sports in 1995 and Istanbulspor Corporation Company was set up in 1995.
The year 1826 is a significant turning point in the sports history of Istanbul. While some of the traditional sports were banned in the reform process after this year, some of them went into a decline as they lost state protection. The mental transformation caused by the changing world conditions, as well as the decrease in the number of the personnel involved in strengthening regulations, were influential in this. Istanbul was introduced to new sports from Europe and America in the modernization process. It is noticeable in this period that sports moved past the influence of palaces and reached society. It is also necessary to point out that Abdulhamid II did not ban sports. There is no evidence showing that Abdulhamid II is against sports except the reasons such as crowds. On the contrary, Galatasaray High School, which was the center of sports in Istanbul, was under the protection of the sultan. Furthermore, Osman Pasha, who was one of the people close to Abdulhamid II, established Beşiktaş Gymnastics Club and he had the approval of the sultan.86
The Republican era was more productive in terms of sports dynamism. Civil society organizations such as community centers had an important role in this. Also, the rivalry culture had positive results in terms of the development of sports. For instance, although the archrivalry between Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray sometimes caused tension, this rivalry had an important role in enabling many sporting branches to reach large masses. Most of the traditional sports that moved from Central Asia to the Ottoman capital city still exist in the modern day with their authenticity intact. Besides, modern sports had the chance to spread to a wider area. Sports have become an area with a high commercial profit in cultural institutions, business environments, and entertainment fields including tourism.
1 E.Bosch, “Nikaia (İznik) Bayram Oyunları”, translated by Cevriye Artuk, TTK Belleten, 1948, vol. 12, no. 46, p. 332.
2 Marie-France Auzépy, “İstanbul’un Hipodromu”, Bizans: Yapılar, Meydanlar, Yaşamlar, edited by Annie Pralong, translated by Buket Kitapçı-Bayrı, Istanbul: Kitap Yayınevi, 2011, pp. 53-61.
3 Tamara Talbot Rice, Bizans’ta Günlük Yaşam, translated by Bilgi Altınok, Istanbul: Göçebe Yayınları, 1998, pp. 182-183.
4 Ayşe Hür, “Spor-Bizans Dönemi”, DBİst.A, VII, 41.
5 Sevcan Yıldırım, Bizans Tarihi, Kültürü, Sanatı ve Anadolu’daki İzleri, Ankara: Gazi Kitabevi, 2008, p. 60.
6 Luigi Bassano, Kanuni Dönemi Osmanlı İmparatorluğu’nda Gündelik Hayat, translated by Selma Cangi, Istanbul: Yeditepe Yayınevi, 2011, p. 135.
7 Takvîm-i Vekâyi‘, nr. 5 (28 Cemâziyelevvel 1247).
8 Ünsal Yücel, Türk Okçuluğu, Ankara: Atatürk Kültür, Dil ve Tarih Yüksek Kurumu Atatürk Kültür Merkezi, 1999, s. 48. The persian Word “bute” that means “pot, jug, target” changed to “puta” in Turkish and the idiom of “pot kirmak” (put one’s food into one’s mouth) derived from this (pp. 45-46).
9 İbrahim Yıldıran, “Türk Kültüründe Atlı Hedef Okçuluğu Olarak Kabak Oyunu ve Osmanlılardaki Görünümü”, Türkleredited by Hasan Celal Güzel et al., Ankara: Yeni Türkiye Yayınları, 2002, vol. 2, p. 627.
10 Abdülaziz Bey, Osmanlı Âdet, Merasim ve Tabirleri, prepared by Kâzım Arısan and Duygu Arısan Günay, Istanbul: Tarih Vakfı Yurt Yayınları, 1995, vol. 2, p. 376.
11 Stephan Gerlach, Türkiye Günlüğü 1573-1576, translated by Türkis Noyan, Istanbul: Kitap Yayınevi, 2007, vol. 1, p. 438.
12 O. G. de Busbecq, Türk Mektupları, translated by Hüseyin Cahit Yalçın, Istanbul: Remzi Kitabevi, 1939, pp. 171-173.
13 Doğan Yıldız, Çağlarboyu Türklerde Spor, Istanbul: Telebasım Yayıncılık- Reklamcılık Ltd. Şti., 2002, pp. 291-296.
14 Ottoman Palace school.
15 Atıf Kahraman, Osmanlı Devleti’nde Spor, Ankara: Kültür Bakanlığı, 1995 1995, pp. 444-447.
16 A kind of javelin.
17 Kahraman, Osmanlı Devleti’nde Spor, pp. 469-471.
18 Ali Ayağ, Türklerde Spor Geleneği ve Kırkpınar Güreşleri, Istanbul: Divan Yayınları, 1983, p. 12.
19 İntizâmî, 1582 Surnâme-i Hümâyun: Düğün Kitabı, prepared by Nurhan Atasoy, Istanbul: Koçbank, 1997, pp. 42-43.
20 Sipahi Mecmuası, no. 1 (15 Ağustos 1333).
21 Nihat Gezder, Geleneksel Sporlarımızdan Atasporu Cirit, Erzurum: Eser Ofset, 1998, p. 9.
22 Gül İrepoğlu, “Osmanlı Sanatında Sporu İzlerken”, Anadolu Uygarlıklarında Spor, edited by İbrahim Yıldıran and Timur Gültekin, Ankara: Spor Yayınevi ve Kitabevi, 2012, p. 133.
23 Özbay Güven, Türklerde Spor Kültürü, Ankara :Atatürk Kültür, Dil ve Tarih Yüksek Kurumu Atatürk Kültür Merkezi, 1992, pp. 30-31.
24 Hâfız Hızır İlyas Ağa, Osmanlı Sarayında Gündelik Hayat: Letâif-i Vekâyi-i Enderûniyye, prepared by Ali Şükrü Çoruk, Istanbul: Kitabevi, 2011, pp. 4-7.
25 Kahraman, Osmanlı Devleti’nde Spor, pp. 606-607; Hızır İlyas, Osmanlı Sarayında Gündelik Hayat, p. 379.
26 Ignatius Mouradgea D’Ohsson, XVIII. Yüzyıl Türkiyesinde Örf ve Adetler, translated by Zerhan Yüksel, Istanbul: Tercüman Gazetesi, n.d., p. 20.
27 Necdet Öztürk, “Osmanlı Kroniklerinde Av Kayıtları (1299-1500)”, Av ve Avcılık Kitabı, edited by Emine Gürsoy Naskali and Hilal Oytun Altun, Istanbul: Kitabevi, 2008, pp. 65-68.
28 The name of the person who would train and take care of sultan’s hunting dogs
29 İrepoğlu, “Osmanlı Sanatında Sporu İzlerken”, p. 148.
30 Busbecq, Türk Mektupları, p. 119.
31 Kahraman, Osmanlı Devleti’nde Spor, pp. 141-144.
32 Güven, Türklerde Spor Kültürü, pp. 15-16.
33 Evliya Çelebi, Seyahatnâme, prepared by. Yücel Dağlı et al., Istanbul: Yapı Kredi Yayınları, 2003, vol. 1, p. 311.
34 Atıf Kahraman, Cumhuriyete Kadar Türk Güreşi, Ankara: Kültür Bakanlığı, 1989, vol. 2, pp. 204-205.
35 The idiom “Meteliğe kurşun atmak” which literally means shooting at pennies referring to not having two cents to rub together is thought to be made up to describe the situation of the poor compared to the rich who targeted at gold.
36 İrepoğlu, “Osmanlı Sanatında Sporu İzlerken”, p. 147.
37 Kahraman, Osmanlı Devleti’nde Spor, pp. 528-529
38 Hüseyin G.Yurdaydın, Matrakçı Nasûh, Ankara: Ankara Üniversitesi İlahiyat Fakültesi, 1963, s. 10.
39 Evliya Çelebi, Seyahatname, vol. 1, p. 310; Güven, Türklerde Spor Kültürü, p. 40.
40 Gülsüm Ezgi Korkmaz, “Sûrnâmelerde 1582 Şenliği” (yüksek lisans tezi), Bilkent Üniversitesi, 2004, p. 61.
41 Güven, Türklerde Spor Kültürü, s. 44; Kahraman, Osmanlı Devleti’nde Spor, pp. 618-620.
42 İsmail Hakkı Uzunçarşılı, Osmanlı Devleti’nin Saray Teşkilatı, Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu, 1988, p. 439.
43 İbrahim Yıldıran, “Osmanlı Saray Teşkilatında Haberci Uzun Mesafe Koşucuları: Peykler”, Osmanlı, edited by Güler Eren Ankara: Yeni Türkiye Yayınları, 1999, vol. 5, p. 659.
44 Gerlach, Türkiye Günlüğü, vol. 2, pp. 596-597.
45 Râşid Mehmed, Târih, Istanbul: Matbaa-i Âmire, 1282, vol. 5, p. 449.
46 Çelebizâde İsmail Âsım, Târih, Istanbul: Matbaa-i Âmire, 1282, p. 177.
47 Yıldıran, “Peykler”, p. 652.
48 Kahraman, Osmanlı Devleti’nde Spor, pp. 620-622.
49 Hızır İlyas, Osmanlı Sarayında Gündelik Hayat, p. 134.
50 Dersaadet: Gate of Felicity.
51 Cerîde-i Havâdis, no. 1190 (7 Zilkade 1280).
52 “Sonbahar At Yarışları”, İdman, no. 10 (14 Teşrinisani 1329), pp. 144-145.
53 Nevin Meriç, Osmanlı’da Gündelik Hayatın Değişimi, Istanbul: Kaknüs Yayınları, 2000, p. 388.
54 Yıldız, Çağlarboyu Türklerde Spor, pp. 126-128.
55 Selânikî Mustafa Efendi, Târih, Istanbul: Matbaa-i Âmire, 1281, p. 291.
56 Tercümân-ı Hakîkat, no. 1027/1227 (10 Rebîülâhir 1316).
57 Yıldız, Çağlarboyu Türklerde Spor, p. 347.
58 Cem Atabeyoğlu, “Spor-Osmanlı’dan Günümüze”, DBİst.A, VII, 42.
59 Yıldız, Çağlarboyu Türklerde Spor, pp. 429-433.
60 Yıldız, Çağlarboyu Türklerde Spor, pp. 320-325.
61 Kahraman, Osmanlı Devleti’nde Spor, pp. 666-670.
62 Yıldız, Çağlarboyu Türklerde Spor, pp. 264-284.
63 Riyaziyât-ı Bedeniyye.
64 Yıldız, Çağlarboyu Türklerde Spor, pp. 365-366.
65 A. Ragıp Akyavaş, Âsitâne: Evvel Zaman İçinde İstanbul, Ankara: Türkiye Diyanet Vakfı, 2000, vol.1, p. 89.
66 Hacı Hasdemir, İstanbul’un 100 Spor Kulübü, Istanbul: İstanbul Büyükşehir Belediyesi Kültür A.Ş., 2010, p. 19.
67 Yıldız, Çağlarboyu Türklerde Spor, pp. 367-372.
68 Cem Atabeyoğlu, “İlk Türk Futbolcusu ve İlk Türk Futbol Takımı”, Yıllarboyu Tarih, 1979, no 10, p. 54.
69 Fuad, “Bizde Futbol: Mâzi, Hâl ve İstiklal”, Spor Âlemi, 12 Eylül 1329, no. 48-110, p. 6.
70 Vahdettin Engin, “Sultan II. Abdülhamid Döneminde Futbol”, Sultan II. Abdülhamid ve Dönemi, edited by Coşkun Yılmaz, Istanbul: Sultanbeyli Belediyesi Kültür ve Sosyal İşler Müdürlüğü, 2012, p. 304.
71 Ali Sâmi, “Galatasaray Kulübünün Tarihçesi”, İdman, 15 Mayıs 1329, no. 1, p. 9.
72 Abidin Dâver, “Galatasaray Hatıraları”, Spor Âlemi, 12 Şubat 1336, no. 8, p. 104.
73 All players of this team which played in Friday League for seven years went to Ankara with the start of Indepence War. Some of the players became martyrs. The ones who survived set up Ankaragücü in following years (Hasdemir, İstanbul’un 100 Spor Kulübü, p. 52).
74 Young Men’s Christian Association, which was set up in the second half of the 19th century within the scope American missionery activities, was organized in Istanbul in 1881 and worked particularly in education and sports.
75 Yıldız, Çağlarboyu Türklerde Spor, pp. 571-581.
76 Cem Atabeyoğlu, “Türkiye’de, 8-3 Sona Eren İlk Basketbol Maçı”, Yıllarboyu Tarih, 1981, no. 6, p. 64-65.
77 Yıldız, Çağlarboyu Türklerde Spor, pp. 451-452.
78 Yıldız, Çağlarboyu Türklerde Spor, pp. 466-469.
79 Yıldız, Çağlarboyu Türklerde Spor, pp. 383-384.
80 Hasdemir, İstanbul’un 100 Spor Kulübü, pp. 16-17.
81 “Türkiye İdman Cemiyeti İttifakı”, Hokey, Istanbul: Vatan Matbaası, 1341, pp. 5-6.
82 Coarse woolen cloth.
83 Yıldız, Çağlarboyu Türklerde Spor, p. 243.
84 Cem Atabeyoğlu, “Kışla Avlusunda Gece Maçı”, Yıllarboyu Tarih, 1979, no. 12, p. 64.
85 Cem Atabeyoğlu, “Yıl, 1927… Türk Kadını Artık Spor da Yapıyor”, Yıllarboyu Tarih, 1981, no. 2, pp. 63-64.
86 Yiğit Akın, Gürbüz ve Yavuz Evlatlar: Erken Cumhuriyet’te Beden Terbiyesi ve Spor, Istanbul: İletişim yayınları, 2004, p. 54.