Daredevil defies death to climb 27-story Cuban hotel
HAVANA, Cuba, Thursday February 7, 2013 — Alain Robert, a Frenchman known as “Spider-Man” for his death-defying climbing exploits, scaled Cuba’s iconic Habana Libre hotel on Monday in a perilous ascent accomplished without benefit of ropes or a safety net.
Hundreds of awed onlookers held their breath then cheered from the streets below as the 50-year-old Frenchman gained the roof of the 27-story, 413-foot-tall (126-metre) hotel in the latest episode of a daredevil career that has seen him repeatedly risk his life to conquer some of the world’s tallest buildings.
Robert had indicated that his main concern was not the height of the former Havana Hilton, but its questionable condition, opening up the possibility that part of the building’s facade might break off during his ascent.
But as things turned out, France’s “Spider-Man” triumphed again, clambering safely onto the roof overlooking the capital at about 1:30 pm after a dangerous 30-minute-plus climb that he made look as easy as a stroll in the park.
The dreadnought Frenchman has conquered much taller structures over the years, including the former Sears Tower in Chicago, New York’s Empire State Building and San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.
He achieved the “summit” of his career two years ago when he took six hours to scale what is currently the world’s tallest building, the 2,717 foot-tall (828-metre) Burj Khalifa in Dubai.
Robert has often gone ahead with his stunts without seeking advance permission from the local authorities, and has sometimes been arrested as a consequence.
He nevertheless sought and gained Havana’s permission for his latest exploit and, after giving him the go-ahead, Cuba deployed dozens of police to the area to maintain order.
The former Hilton hotel is one of Cuba’s most famous buildings, gaining historic status when it was taken over after the 1959 Cuban Revolution.
Subsequently renamed the Habana Libre (Free Havana), the hotel served briefly as the location for Fidel Castro’s personal offices, after his victorious march into the capital. Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)