The incipit of a piece in the Times that leaves one’s head a-shaking:
Once famed for staging Ben Hur-style chariot races, the Circus Maximus in Rome is about to suffer the ultimate humiliation: a beach football tournament featuring players in centurion gear.
The three-day event pitting the best of Europe’s beach footballers against one another has been denounced as a vulgar misuse of the arena.
Andrea Carandini, a professor of archaeology at the University of Rome, said that the tournament, for which the turf surface will be covered by sand, was an “improper and degrading use for a key Roman archaeological site”.
It was the latest example, he added, of the misuse of the Circus Maximus, which had been used for pop concerts and other events “which are not consonant with the history and beauty of the site”.
The Italian 2006 World Cup victory celebrations were held at the Circus Maximus. In 2001 the actress Sabrina Ferilli stripped to her underwear for thousands of AS Roma fans celebrating winning the national title.
When told that the players in the Euro Beach Soccer Cup would wear centurions’ helmets Professor Carandini said that lovers of Ancient Rome were mature enough to pack into museums and exhibitions “without the need for stunts of this kind”.
Gianni Alemanno, the Mayor of Rome, told La Repubblica: “This is not the first time the Circus Maximus has played host to sporting events, and it won’t be the last.” Rome respected its monuments but it had to be a place of enjoyment as well, he added.
Alessandro Onorato, the head of the Christian Democratic faction on the city council, said that the event was “utterly shameful”. “This Administration talks a lot about restoring the beaches on the coast near Rome and then, when it has the chance to promote them, what does it do? It moves the beach to the Circus Maximus.”
Massimiliano Valeriani, a councillor for the centre-left Democratic Party, said that Mr Alemanno “treats Rome as if it was just any other city where you can do anything, however invasive or debatable”.
Francesco Giro, the Deputy Culture Minister, said that it would be better to hold certain events outside Rome. He also had reservations about concerts held outside the Colosseum.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. A couple of years ago some entrepreneur was proposing having some chariot races in the Circus Maximus, but that doesn’t seem to have ever come to fruition. Can anyone update us on the plans mentioned around the same time to excavate/restore the spina? I’m not sure if that’s what’s depicted in the photo I’ve attached or not (photo was apparently taken in the first half of this year).