To eradicate polio in India, Rotary members displayed impressive coordination and commitment. So it should come as no surprise that Rotary members in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, were able to mobilize more than 40,000 people to create the world's largest human national flag. The tribute to the polio eradication effort qualified as a Guinness World Records-breaking achievement.
"What impressed me most was that all of Rotary was represented: Rotaractors, Interactors, and Rotarians," says RI President Gary C.K. Huang, who participated in the event along with his wife, Corinna, and other Rotary senior leaders. "They brought their classmates, friends, and co-workers. I think that says a lot about how important it is to the people that India is polio free."
Participants from all walks of life holding placards stood together on a local fairgrounds to form the Indian flag. Their display broke the record set last year by the Sports Club of Lahore, which organized nearly 30,000 people to form the Pakistani flag.
After breaking the record, local Rotary members, who'd formed the blue wheel in the center of the flag, flipped their placards over to create Rotary wheels, and other Rotary members unfurled a large banner reading "Keep India Polio Free." The organizers, led by District 3230, estimate that another 50,000 people showed up to watch on large TV screens set up outside the event.
Once the participants were organized, they had to hold up the placards for more than five minutes to enable the representative from Guinness to verify the new record. "The last 30 seconds, everyone started screaming [in encouragement]," says Huang. "I [felt] very patriotic, says Avanthika Iyer, a third-year student at Shasun Jain College in Chennai. "The five-minute period of holding the placard was difficult but made us happy."
Says Huang: "When I was told how many people had to participate -- 40,000 to 50,000 -- I didn't think it would happen. When I saw the thousands and thousands of people [gathered] for just the rehearsal the day before, I realized it was possible."