Frenchman Alain Robert climbs the Habana Libre hotel in Havana, Cuba. REUTERS/Stringer
With hundreds of people watching from the streets below, the
so-called French Spiderman, Alain Robert, scaled the landmark
Havana Libre hotel in a free climb that he said wasn't too
He ascended the 27-storry hotel in about half an hour,
pulling himself up from balcony to balcony and pausing
occasionally to exhort applause from the crowds that lined
the surrounding streets in Havana's Vedado district.
Robert, 50, used no safety equipment and twice drew oohs and
ahhs from the crowd as he feigned that he was falling.
"The ascent was nice, not too difficult," he told reporters
Robert has climbed much more formidable structures all over
the world, including such landmarks as the Petronas Twin
Towers in Kuala Lampur and San Francisco's Golden Gate
But he chose the Havana Libre because it was Fidel Castro's
residence for several months after taking power in Cuba's
"It's a symbol for Cuba," said Robert, a small, wiry man with
long blonde hair.
The hotel opened in the spring of 1958 as the Havana Hilton,
but eventually was taken over by the Castro-led government
and the name changed to Havana Libre, or "Free Havana."
When Robert arrived at the top floor, the crowd below
applauded generously and breathed a collective sigh of
"That was a fantastic thing. I've never seen anyone here
climbing the balconies like that," said retiree Xiomara
Nurse Rosalba Garcia, 58, agreed, but said she watched with
fear as Robert ascended.
"It was exciting, but it scared me. I thought at any moment
he would fall," she said with a nervous smile. "It was a