Skip to comments.A Worldwide Push To Bring Back Chariot Racing
Posted on 05/24/2007 9:17:51 AM PDT by DogByte6RER
A Worldwide Push To Bring back chariot Racing
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
May 24, 2007
SAO SIMAO, Brazil On a drowsy May day in the country, tractors and combines were lumbering down dirt roads when, suddenly, a cloud of dust rose up on the horizon. Birds scattered. Rumbling across the green landscape came seven racing chariots, each pulled by four horses.
Riding in the chariot decorated with an engraving of Alexander the Great was Luiz Augusto Alves de Oliveira, a 50-year-old sugar-cane farmer who has an epic plan: returning chariot racing to its ancient glory. In this May Day race at the 1,500-foot hippodrome he built on his ranch in central Brazil, de Oliveira hung back in the middle of the pack of chariots for most of the event. But with two laps to go, he let go the reins, speeded up the horses to about 40 miles an hour, and won easily. You have to have patience and a sense of timing to be a charioteer, de Oliveira said later, mingling with 70 spectators he had invited for beer and barbecue.
De Oliveira is part of a highly committed global community of horse and history buffs who believe that chariot racing is a sport whose time has come again, after a hiatus of a millennium or so. In the Middle East, France and England, as well as in Brazil, these modern charioteers are enduring bone-jarring bumps to revive the contests that thrilled the ancients and, more recently, launched a whole genre of Hollywood sword-and-sandal movies.
One of the men behind the international buggy boomlet, Swedish-born Stellan Lind, became obsessed with chariots after watching the famous racing scene in Ben-Hur, the 1959 movie starring Charlton Heston. Chariot racing was the Formula One of the antiquities, said Lind, who for years was a pharmaceuticals executive.
Lind saw his chance to resurrect racing several years ago when he stumbled onto a Roman hippodrome in Jerash, Jordan, that was being restored by archaeologists. He got financial backing from the Jordan Tourism Board to hold re-enactments of races and gladiator fights there. To help him design chariots that were functional as well as historically faithful, Lind tracked down a former Ben-Hur prop man who was keeping several of the chariots used in the film in his barn in Rome. In 2005, Lind and his company, the Roman Army and Chariot Experience, or RACE, started entertaining tourists in Jerash with Roman exhibitions.
Last September in Paris, director Robert Hossein staged five performances of a $17 million Ben-Hur re-enactment at the Stade de France, featuring hundreds of extras appearing as charioteers, gladiators and pirates. It drew close to 300,000 spectators.
Chariot racing's mass appeal was no mystery to the ancient Greeks, who made the sport a mainstay of the early Olympic Games. In Rome, fans often spent the night before a race camping out at the Circus Maximus, the 250,000-seat stadium, in order to get a good seat.
In modern times, Hollywood has helped keep chariots rolling in the popular imagination. A stuntman and scores of horses died filming the chariot race in the original silent version of Ben-Hur, released in 1925. In the 1959 version of the film, which won 11 Oscars, a nearly disastrous mishap in which a stuntman got flipped out of the chariot was incorporated into the film.
More recently, Gladiator, the Russell Crowe epic, featured a memorably gory fight between gladiators and chariots bearing female archers.
De Oliveira's career as a charioteer began about 10 years ago while he was recovering from a motorcycle accident and had nothing to do but watch the Charlton Heston Ben-Hur over and over. When he finally got back on his feet, de Oliveira set about working with field hands and friends to build and race aluminum chariots.
Neighbors such as Heloisa Consoni were apprehensive at first about the goings-on at de Oliveira's ranch. We weren't sure if he meant to bring in lions and gladiators, too, Consoni says. But now she is a fan. How can you not love that speed? she says.
Gentlemen, start your chariots!
Next comes the Christians to the lions huh???
Racing chariots and religious persecution are two completely different things.
Read the article!
Chariot racing has nothing to do with with public executions of innocents for their religious beliefs.
While everybody can agree that there were many aspects of ancient Roman society that were very brutal, nobody can deny that ancient Rome has had a tremendous influence upon Western Civilization and American culture.
Just take a look at Washington, D.C. The architecture of so many of the government buildings pay homage to ancient Roman and Greek societies.
You don’t throw out the good with the bad.
I’d be happier if they’d bring back dueling, especially on the floor of Congress.
If May Day parading Communists are for it, I’m against it.
And we’ve had chariot racing at the Houston Rodeo for years.
I remember reading an article with photos of chariot racing in America back in the 1950’s or 60’s.
They made the chariots out of 55 gallon drums, and they used air filled rubber tires from cars or trucks or something.
Makes you wonder just which god they "trust"...
That sounds a lot like Redneck Chariot Racing!
Sort of like Ben Hur meets NASCAR.
That’s about what it was—a bunch of cowboys in chariots.
They should challenge the fellas in the article to a race.
That would be something.
Actually having condemned criminals fight in gladiator events would be a good vulgar entertainment for the mob.
Of course the ideal would be to reintroduce Roman concepts for fighting (and clemency) to the millitary.
Sort of like the Roman Circuses, eh? Well, swell, that will go hand in hand with the bread that costs a day’s wage, and we’ll be truly reliving history. Bread and Circuses. So — what? They couldn’t be happy with harness racing? Lovely sport — much more civilized.
And much more boring too.
Don’t forget 8-track tapes. your cheriot won’t be right without an 8-track. oh and bring back lederhosen we need those too. Everything o
d is just so cool.
It's called "harness racing" today.
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