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HIGH AND MIGHTY; Tightrope walker's daring bid to cross bridge.

Byline: CIARAN JONES

A DAREDEVIL tightrope walker will today make history when he crosses a Welsh footbridge.

Stuntman Olivier Roustan will not be taking the usual route over Newport's new bridge.

Instead the 45-year-old will be completing a daring route across the top cable - which at its highest point measures a dizzying 76 metres.

And the French thrill-seeker will have to tackle a 20-metre incline as he makes the 90-metre journey, which is expected to attract thousands of spectators.

Olivier said he expects to complete the stunt quickly after being helped in to position by three industrial climbers.

He told Wales on Sunday: "It's not a story of height, it's a story of distance also. The last big thing I did was walking a 250-metre cable which was 13 metres high." He added: "Generally I walk on smaller cables. This one is really big so it's not the same approach."

He first visited Newport in February to have a look at the bridge after the challenge was suggested to him by organisers of Newport's Big Splash festival.

Olivier said: "I saw the photo and saw it was not so simple for access and I knew that I would need professional help to get good access."

The fearless funambulist has in the past walked a tightrope between the masts of a ship, and scaled the Cathedral of Albi in southern France - the world's largest brick building.

And he promised to put on a special show for Welsh spectators.

He said: "I don't just want it to look like I'm climbing a mountain."

He added: "I like to try to do my act with new things."

One recent test saw him walk a tightrope - with 25 braziers ablaze beneath him. "It's different here, I have to try to understand the project," he said.

"Here, for Newport, the challenge is to walk simply on this bridge, to make this passage."

Nic Young, director of the Big Splash festival, said he hoped Olivier's outrageous feat - due to take place at 4pm today, and again on Monday - would be the centrepoint of the festival.

He said: "I've been taking a lot of photographs of the set-up - they look quite small when they are right the way up there."

And he said the festival was a fitting way to celebrate the resurgence of Newport, and look ahead to the Ryder Cup in a few weeks.

"We're celebrating by bringing great entertainment to as many people as we can. And this, if you'll excuse the pun, will be one of the high points."
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Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Aug 29, 2010
Words:426
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