Sinjska alka

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Alkar riding on his horse.
Scoring in alka: bottom segments are worth 1 point, top segment is worth 2 points, and the central ring is worth 3 points.

The Sinjska alka [siɲska alka] is an equestrian competition which has been held every first Sunday in the month of August in town of Sinj, Croatia since 1715,[1][2] commemorating the victory over Ottoman Turks. It consists of an equestrian competition, in which various horsemen attempt to aim their lances at a hanging metal ring (alka) at full gallop. In 2010 it has been inscribed in UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists.[3]


Alka is also the name of the object used in the tournament; it is made of two concentric rings (diameter of inner being 35.1 mm, and 131.7 mm of outer one) connected with three bars 120° apart. The object is hung on a rope 3.32 metres above the race track. The contestant (called an alkar) rides his horse down the race track and tries to hit the central ring of the alka with his spear in full gallop. Depending on which part of the alka he hits, he receives from 1 to 3 points, and no points if he misses. If, however, the alkar sends the alka in the air away from its holder and hits any part of it on its way down, he will be awarded 1-3 points for a target hit and additional three points, thus increasing the maximum to 6 points in one run.[4] The contest consists of three rounds.


Alkar helper

Only men born in Sinjska krajina (city of Sinj and surrounding villages) can take part in the Alka and it is considered a great privilege to participate in the tournament. The voivode ("Duke") of Alka is a ceremonial title representing the commander of the alkars. It is a great honour to become the alkar vojvoda, and only the most notable men from Sinjska krajina become one. The costumes worn by the alkar men are the same that were worn by the warriors in the 18th century.


Traditionally, heads of state have attended the tournament. In 1818, king of Dalmatia and Austrian Emperor Francis I attended the games. In 1842 Archduke Franz Karl attended and Emperor Franz Joseph also attended, in 1875. Today, the President of Croatia currently takes part in the tournament annually.

The Alka held on August 20, 1944 was bombed by the Allies as part of World War II.[5]

The Alka was held outside of Sinj only three times in its history: in 1832 it was held in Split, in 1922 in Belgrade, and in 1946 in Zagreb.[6]


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