Christmas rush in Sri Lanka as workers race to build tallest tree on time



COLOMBO // The goal was to erect the world’s tallest artificial Christmas tree, but Sri Lankan organisers now say they will be lucky to get the tree up in time for the holiday.

Hundreds of port workers and volunteers were scrambling on Tuesday to build the enormous tree on a popular beachside promenade in Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital.

Once assembled, the steel-and-wire frame should stand 98 metres high – more than 40m taller than the current record-holder.

Organisers said they wanted the tree to help promote ethnic and religious harmony in the Buddhist-majority South Asian island nation.

“This is just to show the world that we can live as one country, one nation,” said the former cricket player Arjuna Ranatunga, now Sri Lanka’s minister of ports and shipping. Sri Lanka has “issues regarding religion, caste and race”, he said.

In recent years, Sri Lanka’s reputation as an inclusive multicultural country has suffered amid complaints by minority Christian and Muslim communities of state-sponsored discrimination.

There have also been allegations of widespread abuses against minority ethnic Tamils both during and after the country’s civil war against Tamil rebels, which ended in 2009.

Since assuming power in January 2015, President Maithripala Sirisena and his government have ushered in an era of transparency and postwar reconciliation, but have yet to make good on many of their promises, including discovering the fate of thousands of people who disappeared during the war or investigating alleged wartime abuses by the military.

“The new government has taken steps to control most of the things,” Mr Ranatunga said, describing the Christmas tree as “one small gesture that we can show the world that we can live in harmony”.

Some non-Christian residents of Colombo – where Christmas lights and Santa Claus imagery overtake shopping malls during the holiday season – were delighted by the enormity of the tree challenge.

“It’s like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see such a thing being erected with your own eyes,” said store clerk Charith Nissanka, 38, as he walked by the construction site, strewn with steel pipes and thousands of metres of netting, onto which the ornaments will be attached. Eventually, there will be more than 1 million natural pine cones attached to the tree, topped by a 6-metre-high shining star.

Ultimately, Sri Lanka hopes the Christmas tree will be declared the world’s tallest artificial one, and efforts are being made to gather evidence to send to Guinness World Records, said the project’s chief organiser, Mangala Gunasekara.

Currently, the record is held by a Chinese firm that put up a 55m-high tree-like tower of lights and synthetic foliage, ornaments and lamps in the city of Guangzhou last year.

The world’s tallest real Christmas tree ever is listed as a 67m-high Douglas fir erected in 1950 at Northgate shopping centre in Seattle. By comparison, this year’s Christmas tree in New York City’s Rockefeller Centre is a Norway spruce that stands about 29m tall and is about 90 years old.

Not everyone in Sri Lanka thought the tree was a good idea, though.

Four months after construction began in August, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith – representing the island nation’s 1.5 million Catholics – lambasted the US$80,000 (Dh293,850) project as a waste of money. Prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe responded to the criticism by saying the tree was not being built with public money, but with donations from individuals and private firms.

But workers missed initial deadlines set for December 15, and then another on Tuesday.

Organisers now say they are planning to have the tree up by Christmas Eve on Saturday night. The tree would then stay up until January 6.

* Associated Press

The burning issue

The internal combustion engine is facing a watershed moment – major manufacturer Volvo is to stop producing petroleum-powered vehicles by 2021 and countries in Europe, including the UK, have vowed to ban their sale before 2040. The National takes a look at the story of one of the most successful technologies of the last 100 years and how it has impacted life in the UAE.

Part three: an affection for classic cars lives on

Read part two: how climate change drove the race for an alternative 

Read part one: how cars came to the UAE

COMPANY PROFILE

Company: Eco Way
Started: December 2023
Founder: Ivan Kroshnyi
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: Electric vehicles
Investors: Bootstrapped with undisclosed funding. Looking to raise funds from outside

Company profile

Name: Infinite8

Based: Dubai

Launch year: 2017

Number of employees: 90

Sector: Online gaming industry

Funding: $1.2m from a UAE angel investor

SPECS

Engine: Two-litre four-cylinder turbo
Power: 235hp
Torque: 350Nm
Transmission: Nine-speed automatic
Price: From Dh167,500 ($45,000)
On sale: Now

UAE players with central contracts

Rohan Mustafa, Ashfaq Ahmed, Chirag Suri, Rameez Shahzad, Shaiman Anwar, Adnan Mufti, Mohammed Usman, Ghulam Shabbir, Ahmed Raza, Qadeer Ahmed, Amir Hayat, Mohammed Naveed and Imran Haider.

A QUIET PLACE

Starring: Lupita Nyong'o, Joseph Quinn, Djimon Hounsou

Director: Michael Sarnoski

Rating: 4/5

FIGHT CARD

 

1.           Featherweight 66kg

Ben Lucas (AUS) v Ibrahim Kendil (EGY)

2.           Lightweight 70kg

Mohammed Kareem Aljnan (SYR) v Alphonse Besala (CMR)

3.           Welterweight 77kg

Marcos Costa (BRA) v Abdelhakim Wahid (MAR)

4.           Lightweight 70kg

Omar Ramadan (EGY) v Abdimitalipov Atabek (KGZ)

5.           Featherweight 66kg

Ahmed Al Darmaki (UAE) v Kagimu Kigga (UGA)

6.           Catchweight 85kg

Ibrahim El Sawi (EGY) v Iuri Fraga (BRA)

7.           Featherweight 66kg

Yousef Al Husani (UAE) v Mohamed Allam (EGY)

8.           Catchweight 73kg

Mostafa Radi (PAL) v Abdipatta Abdizhali (KGZ)

9.           Featherweight 66kg

Jaures Dea (CMR) v Andre Pinheiro (BRA)

10.         Catchweight 90kg

Tarek Suleiman (SYR) v Juscelino Ferreira (BRA)

Fight card

1. Featherweight 66kg: Ben Lucas (AUS) v Ibrahim Kendil (EGY)

2. Lightweight 70kg: Mohammed Kareem Aljnan (SYR) v Alphonse Besala (CMR)

3. Welterweight 77kg:Marcos Costa (BRA) v Abdelhakim Wahid (MAR)

4. Lightweight 70kg: Omar Ramadan (EGY) v Abdimitalipov Atabek (KGZ)

5. Featherweight 66kg: Ahmed Al Darmaki (UAE) v Kagimu Kigga (UGA)

6. Catchweight 85kg: Ibrahim El Sawi (EGY) v Iuri Fraga (BRA)

7. Featherweight 66kg: Yousef Al Husani (UAE) v Mohamed Allam (EGY)

8. Catchweight 73kg: Mostafa Radi (PAL) v Ahmed Abdelraouf of Egypt (EGY)

9.  Featherweight 66kg: Jaures Dea (CMR) v Andre Pinheiro (BRA)

10. Catchweight 90kg: Tarek Suleiman (SYR) v Juscelino Ferreira (BRA)

Civil War

Director: Alex Garland 

Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Cailee Spaeny, Wagner Moura, Nick Offerman

Rating: 4/5

Jewel of the Expo 2020

252 projectors installed on Al Wasl dome

13.6km of steel used in the structure that makes it equal in length to 16 Burj Khalifas

550 tonnes of moulded steel were raised last year to cap the dome

724,000 cubic metres is the space it encloses

Stands taller than the leaning tower of Pisa

Steel trellis dome is one of the largest single structures on site

The size of 16 tennis courts and weighs as much as 500 elephants

Al Wasl means connection in Arabic

World’s largest 360-degree projection surface