One False Move?

Outside magazine, January 1996


One False Move?
By Todd Balf and Paul Kvinta (with Brooke DeNisco, Martin Forstenzer, and Eileen Hansen)


Canadian high-wire walker Jay Cochrane expected last October's jaunt above China's Yangtze River to be the performance of his life. His host, the Chinese government, hoped for something even better: the greatest diversion of all time. The glitz-heavy spectacle kicked off what promises to be an ambitious spin campaign for the highly controversial Three Gorges dam, a project that has drawn harsh criticism from environmentalists and human-rights activists, who estimate that a million people may be forced to resettle. "I'm not a politician. I'm a performer," explained the 51-year-old Prince of Air, who agreed to the half-mile-long walk in return for a six-figure payday. If his reasoning seemed a bit shaky, his footwork was not: With 20,000 spectators looking on, the sequin-caped Cochrane tiptoed between Qutang Gorge's twin 1,300-foot cliffs, Tiger Face and Lion Face, in 53 minutes.

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