sinjska alka.jpg
Photograph: HINA/ Milan ŠABIĆ / mš

Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic on Sunday attended a reception ahead of the 301st edition of the Sinjska Alka lancing tournament.

The reception in that southern Croatian town was also attended by Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic. Parliament Speaker Zeljko Reiner, ministers in the caretaker government, Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) chief Andrej Plenkovic, Bridge party president Bozo Petroc, a member of the Social Democratic party (SDP) presidency, Arsen Bauk, the mayors of Zagreb and Split, Milan Bandic and Ivo Baldasar respectively, the Croatian Armed Forces Chief of Stadd, Mirko Sundov, Navy Commander Predrag Stipanovic, etc.

The Sinjska Alka tournament commemorates a victory by 700 Croatian defenders of Sinj, about 30 kilometres inland from the southern coastal city of Split, against 60,000 Ottoman soldiers under Mehmed Pasha Celic on August 14, 1715. The competition features period-clad horsemen riding at full gallop and aiming their lances at an iron ring, called the alka, which is suspended from a rope above the race track. The Sinjska Alka tournament was inscribed on UNESCO's world intangible cultural heritage list in 2010. Only men born in Sinj and surrounding villages can take part in the Alka and it is considered a great privilege to participate in the tournament. The costumes worn by the alkar men are the same that were worn by the warriors in the 18th century.

The tournament rules, codified in a 1833 statute, promote ethics and fair play, and stress the importance of participation in community life. The whole community helps to make, conserve, restore and reconstruct weapons, clothes and accessories to support the continuation of the tradition. The tournament is also entwined with local religious practices, social gatherings, family visits and festivities at home and in the open air. The Sinjska Alka is the only remaining example of the medieval knightly competitions that were regularly held in the Croatian coastal towns until the nineteenth century.

The Sinjska Alka was inscribed in May 2007 in the Register of Cultural Goods of the Republic of Croatia maintained by the Ministry of Culture.

The 301st edition of the tournament is held under the auspices of President Grabar-Kitarovic.

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