For far too long, this has been a matter of speculation for us personally. But thankfully, the Wall Street Journal has done the legwork for us and determined that, at least for now, the Azeris have the biggest pole.
This month, Mr. Chambers is erecting a pole in the wind-swept Azerbaijan capital of Baku. At almost 532 feet, it will be the tallest flagpole on record. Azerbaijani officials, eager to savor the feat, have asked him to hold off building a taller pole for a year, he said.
Clients "always tell us they want this to be the last record," Mr. Chambers said from his small office in Dubai's sprawling port. "But they know, in general, that we're on a roll, and we're gonna build more poles."
A monster-flagpole building boom is sweeping across Central Asia and the Middle East, and Mr. Chambers, an American entrepreneur, is at the center of the frenzy. In the past eight years, he and his small company have built the world's four tallest "unsupported," or freestanding, flagpoles. The Baku pole will top all of them....
Last fall, the Azerbaijani government ordered a flagpole measuring 492 feet, enough to break the Aqaba record with plenty of pole to spare. But midway through construction, Mr. Chambers got a call from Baku.
He says he was told the country's president wanted to top North Korea's 525-foot-tall flagpole, near the border with South Korea. It sits atop a tower -- so it doesn't qualify for Guinness's "unsupported" category. But Azerbaijani officials wanted to beat it anyway. (The president's office said a spokesman wasn't available to comment, and officials didn't respond to emailed questions.)
Earlier this year, Turkmenistan cut a deal for its own tall pole. Mr. Chambers agreed to build one smaller than the Azerbaijani pole, which was already under construction. But he said he'd finish it quicker.
That way, Turkmenistan could hold the record for at least a few weeks. They got a discount because their record won't last, Mr. Chambers says. Turkmenian officials don't seem disappointed that it will be short-lived...
Mr. Romanos says his potential client is somewhere in the Middle East but doesn't want to be identified until construction starts. That's to keep neighbors from planning their own, taller poles.
"It's important that they keep the record as long as they can," Mr. Romanos says. "It's a pride thing."
Because if I was President of a country with pretty much unlimited resources, a medieval health care system, apocalyptic pollution and people still living in holes in the ground from a war I lost 15 years ago, the first thing I'd do to demonstrate my emergence on the world stage is erect the world's biggest flagpole.