Richard Plaud worked for eight years to build a nearly 24-foot model of the Eiffel Tower. Each of the 706,900 matches he stuck brought the Frenchman closer to his dream: achieving a world record for building the tallest match sculpture.
But in late January, a few weeks after completing the replica, Guinness World Record officials announced devastating news: Its Eiffel Tower was disqualified for being built with the wrong kind of matchsticks.
“That hurts me,” he told TFI Info, French television channel, in an interview broadcast this week. He also expressed his dissatisfaction on Facebook. “GREAT DISAPPOINTMENT,” he wrote in an article last week. “Tell me that the 706,900 sticks stuck one by one are not matches!!??”
On Thursday, however, after days of headlines about Mr Plaud’s disappointment over his disqualification, Guinness reversed its decision, saying it had made a mistake. Mr. Plaud had deserved the title, Guinness said in a statement, even though he had used matches without flammable ends.
Mark McKinley, director of records at Guinness, said on Friday that the organization regretted any distress it had caused Mr Plaud during what should have been a moment of celebration.
Upon reflection, Guinness was “a little harsh” in its interpretation of what constitutes a match, Mr. McKinley said in an interview. While Guinness officials had initially defined matches as pieces of wood with a flammable end, Guinness later learned that within the community of people who build things with matches, cutting the ends was a common practice. to avoid starting a fire, he said.
“If you have a flammable end, that makes it quite a dangerous activity,” Mr McKinley said.
Guinness contacted Mr. Plaud on Thursday to let him know he was the new champion, but he has not yet responded, Mr. McKinley said Friday.
Mr. Plaud, who resides in the west of France, told Le Parisien that he completed his Eiffel Tower structure, which involved 50 pounds of glue, on December 27, the centenary of the death of Gustave Eiffel, the civil engineer after whom the real thing was named.
Guinness said it initially disqualified him because he used specially ordered matches that did not have a flammable tip. Mr. Plaud had begun making his model by scraping the sulfur tips off matches, a painstaking process, but decided to speed up construction by ordering custom matches without the tips from Flam’Up, a French match maker, according to Guinness.
Guinness rules stipulated that matches used must be commercially available and must not be cut, taken apart, or deformed to the point of being recognized as matches.
Mr. Plaud joins winners in at least two other matchstick categories: largest collection of musical instruments made from matches and largest matchstick sculpture. The current champion of the first category is the Ukrainian Bohdan Senchukov, with a collection of 14 musical instruments matches, including a guitar made from 23,000 matchsticks that took more than a year to complete, Guinness said. (Musical instruments were also made from matches without flammable ends.)
The title for the largest category of matchstick sculptures belongs to Briton David Reynolds, who spent 15 years building an oil production platform in the North Sea. The previous title holder for tallest matchstick sculpture, Toufic Daleh of Lebanon, who also won for a replica of the Eiffel Tower.
Mr McKinley said Guinness’ verification process is neither easy nor perfect and involves missteps from time to time. “It’s unfortunate that it had to turn out this way,” he said.