What’s the origins of the Guinness Book of Records and what drives people to break records.
I have always had a fascination with this reference book since I was a child. It appeased my desire for knowledge and fulfilled my curiosity of wanting to know who the best in every conceivable field was. It had a plethora of accomplishments and tons of superlatives. Nations, people, animals, buildings -those were the heroes of the records. The popular book is now going into its 62nd year of publication, and these days it’s not just a book. It has become a strong franchise, extending to TV shows as well as museums.
It all started at a party in Wexford, Ireland in 1951, where Sir Hugh Beaver, the managing director of The Guinness Brewery, was arguing with the host about the fastest game bird in Europe, and they failed to find an answer in any reference books. Three years later he decided that his company should promote a reference book that can settle pub arguments. With the help of the brothers Norris and Ross McWhirter, they were able to compile a book containing facts and figures. None of them would’ve predicted that the book will become an all-time bestseller and the most reliable source for world records. Not only that, Guinness World Records has become the international authority in verifying, authenticating and cataloguing of world records.
The records themselves vary from the silly or strange to the sublime, but what might seem trivial to you could be a passion for someone else. The longest fingernails, the longest moustache, the person with the most stretchable skin, the most jump ropes done, and the list goes on and on.
Guinness World Records, over the years, has stopped recording or following certain activities, due to the harm it might cause the person attempting to break the record, such as the longest time staying awake, or most time without food. It also won’t get involved in any attempt that might cause harm to animals. Some of the rules also include any attempts that have to do with large amounts of food, since part of the criteria for the success of such an attempt is that all the food must be consumed completely or distributed for consumption.
Due to the fact that Guinness World Records has become such a global brand, they now have regional offices in the US, UK, China, Japan, and UAE. The decision to open a regional office in Dubai, UAE was an easy choice, as the UAE held 147 of the 380 records from the Middle East. (The National 2013)
The Dubai metro, for example, is the longest driverless metro network in the world. Burj Khalifa with its many world records, such as being the tallest building, the tallest man-made structure on land, most floors in a building, etc. In Fujairah in 2010, the world record for the largest Yola dance was broken when 285 participants gathered to perform this traditional Emirati dance. The capital Abu Dhabi is not shy when it comes to record-breaking too. The Grand Hyatt Capital building holds the world record for a structure with the most incline. An angle of 18 degrees, almost five times the inclination of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
So why break the world record? To leave a legacy or be immortalized in a book? If that’s your only reason, you might want to know that most records do not make it to the book. Out of the 40,000 records or so in the Guinness World Record database, only 4000 are published in the books. In an interview with Mr. Ashrita Furman -the holder of the most Guinness World Record titles, when asked why he keeps breaking records, and what keeps him going- said: “This is my way of trying to transcend my limitations by going deep within.”
The book still manages to captivate me with its allure, as with every record, I could only imagine the determination and strong will behind it. Maybe one day, I’d be able to crown my efforts into a world record.