Guinness Book of Records 2013 – digested read

John Crace reduces the annual almanac of the world’s biggest and smallest and strangest to a manageable 600 words

In the last 12 months, we’ve received 7,896 record applications from the UK and Ireland. Of these, just 261 made it through our rigorous ratification process, ranging from the longest ever cucumber (758km) grown in Rochdale to the largest number of sexual abuse complaints (412 and counting) made against a national broadcaster (BBC). Well done to everyone.

Globally, GWR managers processed around 50,000 applications, and there is no let-up in enthusiasm for record-breaking. I was particularly inspired by the Pasadena freefall team, who have posthumously achieved immortality for the highest ever jump without a parachute, and to the boys and girls of Perth High School in Australia for the largest number of people grouped together making the “Whatever” sign with their hands.

Humans: In February 2012, Chandra Bahadur Dangi from Nepal was officially declared the world’s shortest living man at 13.2cm, coming in a massive .07cm shorter than Junrey Balawing from the Philippines, the previous world record holder. Keith Tebbit from Dunstable was disqualified after he was discovered to have amputated both his legs. GWR takes cheating extremely seriously, and only people with bona fide genetic disorders will be considered. On which note, here is a picture of Sultan Kösen (Turkey), the world’s tallest man, smiling. Unfortunately, we do not have quite enough space to discuss how depressed and isolated his height often makes him feel.

Geography: After extensive re-measurement, we can confirm that Mount Everest is still the highest mountain on Earth. The South Pole is also still at the South Pole and the Nile is still the longest river. However, now that the road works on the M1 have been completed, the world’s longest contraflow system (2,334km) is to be found on the A2 outside São Paolo (Brazil).

Charity: As so often in the past, many of our new records (see page 73 for most fairy cakes baked in a Baby Belling during half-term) have raised enormous amounts of money for good causes. This year we have extended the category to recognise all those B-list celebrities who have worked tirelessly to raise their profile by getting themselves in front of the TV cameras as often as possible while pretending to give a shit about Children in Need. Michael McIntyre gets a whole sidebar to himself for his peerless ability to say the same joke over and over again without appearing to notice no one thought it was funny the first time.

Olympics: It has been a great year for British sport. Three particular records stand head and shoulders above the others. The Olympic Delivery Authority’s complete cluelessness in not knowing how to lose the least money on the redevelopment of the stadium. The Conservative-led government’s support for the Paralympics while cutting disability benefits. Boris Johnson for claiming the credit for everything.

Taxation: What a bumper year for all those individuals and organisations who have been going head-to-head to avoid paying tax at all costs! Amazon, Google and Starbucks have raised the bar significantly, though Starbucks did let the side down by offering a token gesture of £3.88 in corporation tax. Still topping the hypocrites’ chart are U2, for their continued sanctimoniousness despite moving their tax affairs to Holland in 2006.

Shergar Special Award: For extending a franchise far longer than anyone believed possible by creating any number of pointless new records, the record goes to … GWR!

Digested read, digested: We were devastated to hear that the world’s oldest woman died last week.

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