No feat too minor for Malaysia's record breakers
From ultra-long hula hoop sessions to living in a glass cage with scorpions, Malaysians are piling up world's-best titles.
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Eventually Ooi plans to build a Hall of Fame with displays of memorabilia and an arena for record-breaking attempts. A tireless publicist who wears monogrammed sky-blue flak jackets with "MBR Official" on the back, Ooi oversees a skeleton staff of 10 in charge of certifying national records. Some attend record-breaking events, others monitor public submissions, send guidelines to events organizers, and judge which merit inclusion. A website offers another way to send entries (www.malaysiarecords.com.my).Skip to next paragraph
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Many records are surprisingly humdrum: longest jetty, largest kitchen sink producer, biggest inflatable mascot.
As national record keepers, MBR spreads the awards between different areas of the country, making sure nobody feels left out.
The state of Sarawak, for instance, boasts the nation's first, and only, cat museum. Left unsaid is the global singularity of its feline theme.
The book doubles as a civics class, listing elected leaders since independence in 1957 and profiling deceased national heroes.
Ooi says his all-time favorite was a successful team attempt in 2003 to drape a Malaysian flag along the Great Wall of China. Twenty-three university students took 4 hours and 17 minutes to unfurl their 3.2-kilometer (2 mile) flag, beating the record set in 2000 by another Malaysian team who brought a 2-kilometer (1.2 mile) flag. "It's not easy to put a flag on one of the seven wonders of the world," says Ooi reverently.
Such record-breaking zeal is amply documented in MBR, but largely absent from the Guinness World Records, which has been compiling records since 1955. A spokeswoman says Malaysia represents a very low percentage of entries in its database of over 40,000 records (the US leads the pack, followed by Britain).
Guinness's loss is Malaysia's gain
On average, Guinness rejects 80 percent of submissions, whether for incompleteness, irrelevance, or sheer idiocy. That kind of cold shoulder was a crucial spur for Malaysia's go-it-alone book, says Ricky Yap, an editorial assistant at MBR. "Guinness didn't give enough recognition to Malaysia. We wanted to have our own book," he says.
Not everyone in Malaysia is wowed by the book and its circus sideshow superlatives. Some roll their eyes at its triviality. "Breaking the world record for the 100 meters, now that's something. Not eating the most sausages in one go. I mean, who cares?" says Shazli, a banker.
At an awards ceremony for the National Zoo, which holds a record for breeding birds in captivity, Ooi is too busy extolling the benefits of record-breaking to pay much heed to his critics. Why not focus on the positive and allow people their 15 minutes of fame? "It's inspirational," he says. "Seeing people strive can inspire the nation to excellence."