Source AP ©

Dutch basketball team Eiffel Towers purchases piece of real one

The Dutch basketball team Eiffel Towers now has a real emblem.

Outbidding other would-be buyers, team president Erik Kurvers purchased a 4.5-meter (14.7-foot) piece of a winding iron staircase that once stood in the Eiffel Tower for 150,000 EUR(US$219,390), said Sylvie Robaglia, spokeswoman for the ADER auction house.

Kurvers bought the staircase to promote his team, Eiffel Towers, a member of the Union of European Basketball Leagues based in Den Bosch, Netherlands. In an interview with The Associated Press, Kurvers said he had hoped to pay 20,000 EUR(US$29,000) and was prepared to pay 80,000 EUR(US$117,000), but outbid all others because of what the piece symbolizes.

"It's not the money. It's more of what it means to us," he said.

For the 44-year-old entrepreneur, who named his financial consultancy after the famous French architect, the name Eiffel connotes the pursuit of excellence.

Gustave Eiffel climbed the 1,911-step helical staircase to inaugurate the monument in 1889. It was removed in 1983 to make room for new elevators and was cut into 24 pieces that were auctioned off to museums and collectors around the world. One section remains on display at the Eiffel Tower, while others are owned by the Statue of Liberty National Monument and France's Musee d'Orsay.

The one auctioned Monday was the last to be sold off, according to the auction house.

Eight bidders from as far away as Russia and India sought the staircase, which once linked the second and third levels and was expected to sell for between 20,000 EUR(US$29,000) and 30,000 EUR(US$44,000). Some bidders were collectors, while others were business owners interested in using the stairs for marketing efforts.

One bidder intended to use it simply as a stairway.

Kurvers would not say exactly how or where the stairs would be used but insisted that they would be well appreciated.

"It's a very special thing you can only buy once in your life," he said.

The 312-meter (1,024-foot) Eiffel Tower was built for the 1889 World's Fair in Paris, which celebrated the centennial of the French Revolution. Eiffel had to defend his company's work against criticism from luminaries of the time, who issued a statement calling it "useless and monstrous." About 6 million people visit the landmark every year.

The Eiffel Towers team was founded in 2000. They were Dutch national champions in the ULEB league in 2005 and 2006.

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