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|ATHENS， Sept.13 (Xinhua) -- For three days at the start of autumn each year in northern Greece， professional and amateur wrestlers douse themselves with olive oil and participate in a slippery contest whose origins date back centuries ago.
The annual festival， which is held in early September at Alan Tepe in the Rhodope Mountains， some 750 km northeast of Athens， promotes and spreads the art of wrestling by testing each participant's strength and skills， organizers explained to Xinhua.
Oil wrestling can be traced back to two millennia ago in several parts of central Asia and the Middle East.
The traditional sport has continued from generation to generation， bringing together wrestlers and visitors in a unique spectacle.
Barefoot wrestlers of all ages wear only thick trousers made of buffalo or cow leather or jeans in the most modern version.
Prior to matches， they pour olive oil on their bodies， in some cases they oil one another as a demonstration of balance and mutual respect.
When the time comes， they enter the grassed arena and prepare to fight a one-on-one battle.
"Each battle can take from five seconds up to 30 to 40 minutes， depending on strategy and tactics，" Mehmet Arnaout， organizer of the festival and president of the city council of Ariana told Xinhua.
According to Arnaout， there is no score in the game. The winner is the one who can manage to throw his opponent to the ground so that his shoulders touch the soil.
Olive oil makes it harder for the wrestler to make that move so it needs a certain strategy， besides strength， Arnaout stressed.
Unlike Greco-Roman wrestling that is practiced worldwide and in the Olympic Games， oil wrestling matches have more freestyle moves.
The festival attracts wrestlers and visitors from various cities in Greece， and from Bulgaria， Romania and Turkey who attend the matches every year.
More than 30 wrestlers aged 10 to 45 took part in seven categories of the festival this year.
"We are very glad that， despite the economic crisis we are experiencing in Greece over the past few years， we've managed to gather a total of 4，000 euros from local sponsors and that amount will be shared to all the wrestlers who fought in the tournament as a symbolic gesture，" Arnaout said.
In the past， a large bazaar was held during the festival. The seven-year debt crisis has changed spectators' purchasing power and habits， limiting economic activities around the field where wrestlers contest.
Despite financial difficulties， the event has adapted to the new conditions， so that the tradition lives on. (1 euro = 1.12 U.S. dollars)
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