Domino Dancing

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One of the highlights of the year for the Dutch is the annual world record attempt at domino-toppling. Every year teams from all over Europe converge on an exhibition centre in Leeuwarden to erect the spectacular display. They somehow manage to outdo themselves each year constructing amazing scenes and performing gravity-defying feats.

This year, however, an incident occured a few days before the scheduled attempt. A house sparrow, now on the endangered list in The Netherlands, managed to find its way into the exhibition centre and, unfortunately, knocked over around 23,000 'stones' - the total could have been much higher but for the judicious use of 'breaker' dominoes which are used to stop accidental falls and only removed minutes before the record attempt starts.

This migratory detour was far more costly for the sparrow than the organisers, however. Worried that the bird may knock even more dominoes over and disrupt the show which is televised by SBS to the whole of The Netherlands and quite a few other European countries, they sent for an exterminator who cornered the sparrow and shot it with an air rifle. News of this death soon spread and before long a website was set up for people to post their condolances.

At the same time the story was getting an airing on the 'Geenstijl' website - an anarchic site which enjoys a huge following and exerts a huge influence on a large portion of the Dutch populace. A thread leading off the story had 2,000 posting in one day. The contributors were whipped into a frenzy and plotting began to disrupt the record attempt. A bounty of 1,000 euros was offered to anyone who could knock more dominoes down. The amount increased as local radio stations took up the call. Lengthy discussions ensued as to how best to undertake this disruption - perhaps a few well-aimed, tiny rubber balls could be smuggled in to the arena? Live animals were also mooted and two boys from Eindhoven almost succeeded when they attempted to take in 19 mice concealed in a pizza box . Luckily for the organisers they discovered the plot and the boys and mice were apprehended at the gate.

Animal protection agencies announced that they were investigating the shooting but things started to go over the top when employees of the TV station started receiving death threats. It is not yet known whether any court action will be taken by animal welfare groups against the official who ordered the 'execution'.

In any event, the show went on air and the dominoes were started on their travels by Anastascia. Nearly all of them fell down when required and a new record was set at 4,155,476. The spectacular scenes revealed when the dominoes fell were, once more, quite breathtaking. Flags, famous pictures and a Chinese section which banged a gong were all greeted with cheers by the onlookers. No doubt the dvd will be released soon although sales may not be as profitable as in previous years.

On a lighter note, the Dutch for 'house sparrow' is 'mus'. Words in all languages which contained these three letters were put to use in a humorous thread proving that not everyone was taking the misdeed too seriously. This will be a 'Domino D Day' everyone in The Netherlands will long remember.


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