The 2019 Conquest Cup – Istanbul, Turkey: Part I

To understand the weight of an archery competition in Turkey, specifically Istanbul – you must first get a glimpse of the history surrounding the “why” of it all.

On May 29, 1453 after eight weeks of siege Sultan Mehmed II took Constantinople from the Byzantines, ending their empire.  With the death of Constantine XI, the Byzantines were driven out and thus began the Ottoman control of the city.  It continued on as Constantinople until 1923 and after Ankara became the capitol of Turkey – the name was changed to Istanbul.  The significance of Istanbul cannot be understated; for all intents and purposes it was the center of the known world for many years – the literal connection between Europe and Asia.  A massive city now (nearly 20 million people), it sprawls over three dozen individual districts, on both the European side and Asian side of the Bosporus river, respectively.

The city may have America beaten for the title of the ultimate melting-pot, dozens of cultures call Istanbul home.  You can go out and hear nearly every language imaginable as you walk down the street.  On top of that, the city is an amazing mash-up of cultures, ideologies and history colliding face first with modernity.  Despite the desire to modernize, during a routine cab ride you might see ancient Roman aqueducts, modern hotels, discos and beautiful mosques.  The diversity of scenery is a testament to the stratified layers of culture and history that would take a number of lifetimes to completely understand.

(The Hagia Sophia – Construction started in 539 AD)
(Shot from our apartment in Istanbul – a common neighborhood near the European district.  A great mixing of buildings, styles and a distinct clash of old and new.)
(Looking towards Galata Tower from Topkapi Palace – this is where the Sultans would sit and eat in the mornings, looking out over the old city.)

One thing, that plays a huge role in the history and going so far as to say, cultural pride – is archery. Archery has a very special place in Turkish culture – all forms, mounted, target and flight are venerated and respected.  It is particularly noticeable in the museums, artwork and literature; Turkey is truly a country for archers.  It is epitomized in the Okcular Vakfi – The Archer’s Foundation; a massive range and training complex deep in the heart of Istanbul.  Founded in what was once a military barracks, archery has been practiced in this location since the Ottoman period.  While it looks rather modern today, a walk around the perimeter will reveal the columns of note; famous distance records set by both common soldiers, and even the Sultans themselves.  The exterior of the lodge is deceiving, once there you begin to feel the weight of it, particularly as an archer you realize how special this place really is.

(The main range at Okcular Vakfi)
(Closing Ceremony at The Conquest Cup – to the left, a few of the columns for distance records set in flight archery.)

Over 300 archers from over 30 countries participated this year in the event; it consisted not only of traditional but modern archery as well.  The primary focus however, is the traditional competition and flight archery.  Flight being a purely “how far can you go” event – with some staggering distances.  Classes included both a modern construction class (carbon and fiberglass allowed) and a true “natural” class (horn, wood, sinew, etc) – and equipment was thoroughly checked.  We’ll discuss the nuts and bolts of the competitions next week.

That concludes Part I of our look at The 2019 Conquest Cup – next up will be covering the events, shooting and some amazing archers that were present for this world class event.




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