DUBAI // Alain “Spider-Man” Robert has survived two comas, three skull fractures and so many nights in prison cells around the world he no longer keeps count.
But those hurdles barely register against the French daredevil’s passion for scaling skyscrapers – usually with no rope and no permission.
Alain, 49, has logged 125 towers, including the Burj Khalifa in March last year.
His feats make him one of the few people worldwide who can comfortably put to shame the Hollywood action hero Tom Cruise, who wowed global audiences in last year’s film Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol by swinging around the world’s tallest tower from a cable.
Alain may also be one of the few with a lower body-fat ratio than that of the movie star.
“I don’t understand why we are making such a big, big story out of Tom Cruise,” he says. “He did three metres on the building. He was pulled by a cable. Me, I started at the bottom and I went all the way to the top.”
Scaling the Burj Khalifa took six hours – two hours more than his second-longest climb. Winds at the top of the 828-metre tower blustered around him at 55kph. For traction, Alain had chalk-covered hands and climbing shoes. He carried a banner of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and the Ruler of Dubai, to unfurl at the top.
But Alain says the Burj Khalifa was nowhere near his most challenging climb because the authorities made him wear a harness before they gave him permission.
“There was no risk,” he says.
Permission is a problem that has dogged him in many countries, especially at the start of his career. More info