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Thursday, 29 June, 2000, 19:19 GMT 20:19 UK banner
Standing tall in the Low Countries
Full of hot air
Making a giant-sized impression with the fans
BBC Sport Online's Pete Lansley receives an exclusive insight into how the now infamous giant dancing figures operate and just how they came to be there.

It is time for that time-honoured debate that comes around every two years.

Who have been your star men of the tournament? Luis Figo, perhaps, or Zinedine Zidane? Maybe Edgar Davids, or even the entire Italian defence?

Contenders, granted. But no one player can claim to be above those enormous wobbly dancers who have voraciously celebrated every goal and every final whistle.

These floppy men have proved the catalyst for a thousand parties during this happy month in the Low Countries.

Crazed

Recreating their crazed antics in the bars of Bruges or Brussels have sparked night-long dancing sessions fuelled by the adrenaline of fantasy football and quality Belgian beer.


Making a giant impression
Stand up if you love football
One for each competing nation, the 16 Fly Guys will all be getting the wind up on Sunday evening as part of the closing ceremony before France play Italy in Rotterdam.

Party on down, Europe.

The 14 knocked-out nations will then see their figures descend back to earth leaving only the two finalists still standing.

It has already been a classic tournament.

The implausibly attacking nature of Europe's finest teams, the accent on individual skill within the team framework, the speed of the new ball and the goalkeeper's releasing of it, have combined to leave the technicoloured supporters agog and off the edge of their seats.

Dream

The French fans, scarves tied to wrists swirling above heads, the sheer wall of orange in Amsterdam, the Slovenians still criss-crossing BeneLux extending their dream.

A great time has been had by virtually everyone and no-one has had more of a ball than those giant air-blown dolls.

So how did the floppy men come into being?

They are the creation of Giant Publicity, a Dutch company who set up last year with the idea of getting involved in the fun of Euro 2000.


Feeling deflated
Feeling deflated
Marc Hunnekens, commercial director of Giant Publicity, explained: "When Euro 2000 was coming up, we thought it would be nice to make a product which would make people in the stadium enthusiastic about the football.

"My colleague, Marcel [Peijnenburg], and I were sometimes going to the pub and discussing our ideas but this product really came alive in our office from where we made our proposals to the organisers of Euro 2000.

"They were very enthusiastic and accepted us."

The two Dutch friends' company is based in Baarle-Nassau, through which the border between Holland and Belgium runs.

They were delighted to have to switch on the ventilators ten times for Holland's game with Yugoslavia - two national anthems, six Dutch goals, one conceded and one for the final whistle - and only sorry that they were under-worked when England were playing.

Technical

Two early goals against Portugal in Eindhoven and that was it. Alan Shearer had to play the Fly Guy against Germany.

"There were some technical problems in the grounds of Charleroi and Liege and the organisers called us two days before the tournament started and said there's not enough room in the stadium," said Hunnekens.


Standing tall
Full of hot air
"It was a pity but the other 24 games were right for us."

There are eight teams of three men who have transported the Fly Guys between grounds.

Standing 13 metres high, including the white bases, the two legs are based on two low-voltage ventilators which send the character flying upwards within five seconds.

Initially, Giant Publicity encountered some teething problems, with access to grounds and electricity.

Positive

"But as the tournament went along it became easier to work out and we've had a lot of positive reactions, not only in Holland but abroad," added Hunnekens.

"We hope to get more orders in the short-term. We hope Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United will want to have Fly Guys next season and that you'll see us in the Champions League soon."

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See also:

29 Jun 00 | Fans Guide
Dignity in defeat?
25 Jun 00 | Fans Guide
No party-poopers here
22 Jun 00 | The BBC Team
Franco-Dutch love fest
24 Jun 00 | Euro2000
Charleroi celebrates
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