Chariot Racing Might Return to Circus Maximus
july 17th, 2008
||Chariot racing, the ancient equivalent of modern F1 car races or horse racing, is nowaday came back to be an attractive show in France and in Jordan, but none has though until today to re-discover it a as a true sport and not simply as a show.
"It's time - says Franco Calò, an italian entrepreneur - for Romans to once again leave the Gauls and the Huns in their dust."
Franco Calò has founded the association Vadis Al Maximo that aims to bring back ancient Roman chariot racing and modern Roman pride.
Chariot racing is knowing a renaissance of sorts. Events are held in cities from Bulgaria to Germany to France to Jordan.
There is even a hippodrome in Brazil. But nothing has been still organized in Rome, the Calò's city and capital of the Roman Empire.
That, though, is something Calò is setting about to change. He has a vision for chariot racing, and sees its future popularity as huge, and pushing for the Italian capital to reclaim chariot racing and establish an event of its own. In his vision, the sport will be as popular as Grand National betting on horse racing, or the worldwide phenomenon of F1 car racing.
"Rome is the only large Italian city without a unique historical manifestation, such as Siena's Palio horse races or
Venice's Historic Regatta, - is written on his web site - do Romans really want "to come in third behind the Gauls (the French)
and the Huns (the Germans), when it comes to Romanness?"
Calò is especially annoyed that many of the races currently held outside of Italy show major shortcomings when it comes to
historical accuracy. The re-enactments near Berlin particularly upset him. His Web site links to a video of the chariot races
held annually in the city's Karlhorst district, but he warns that: "The site is only to be viewed by those with strong stomachs,
as it contains horrific images, such as chariots being pulled by ponies and fake Roman soldiers."
The Association goal is to start the event in october 17th, 2009 a date used also in roman time to start these kind of races, using the ancient Circus Maximus are racing field using this place exactly as it was intended 21 centuries ago.
Circus Maximus is not what it once was, but it is still a popular place in Rome used in many occasions to group people as it happened when Italy won the 2006 World Cup.
Still, as large as Calò's dreams are, so too are the potential hurdles. While he claims that he has lined up some potential sponsors, the site itself, Circus Maximus, is hardly what it used to be. Most of the circus' materials have been carted off over the centuries to be put to use in other buildings, and its grounds are now officially protected as a park. Nowadays, it is mostly used as a dog-run and a place for Romans to go jogging.
Most challenging of all, however, is getting permission from the city to stage the event in the first place. "We've reached an important moment and we've passed most of the big tests," Calò insists. Marco Pomarici, the chairman of Rome's municipal counsel who is second in charge behind the mayor, has voiced his support for the project, according to Calò.
Another problem could be to obtain permission from cultural heritage officials, who have been presented with an impact assessment and are currently reviewing the proposal.
Roman chariots can be big business. Stellan Lind, as example, a Swedish citizen currently living in Jordan, manages a company devoted to staging such races (Roman Army and Chariot Experience). Lind's company recreates Roman army displays and chariot races for tourists twice a day year-round. Although the races are choreographed, the hippodrome the races are held in located in Jerash the famous roman city in Jordan was built by the Romans and his chariots are based on the original designs of Alfredo Danesi, the Italian expert who made the chariots used in 'Ben-Hur.'
A frame from the movie "Ben Hur" (1959)
Chariot races bring ancient Roman city back to life in Jordan (june, 2005)