ABC orders Wallenda to wear harness for falls walk 0
Nik Wallenda is seen at Niagara Falls in this August 4, 2011 file photo. (MIKE DIBATTISTA/QMI Agency)
NIAGARA FALLS, Ont. - For some tourists, Nik Wallenda's wirewalk across Niagara Falls will still be a spectacle worth watching, even if he wears a safety harness. But others say the precautionary device dashes any excitement surrounding the event on June 15.
"I could see some people being disappointed, but it will still be something to see," Kim Andrews of West Virginia said Tuesday.
"It won't be as dramatic, but that's a long way to walk and it's not something you see often," her husband Michael added.
U.S. TV network ABC is insisting Wallenda wear the safety equipment. ABC will televise the historic walk. Without ABC's financial backing of the event, Wallenda says he simply can't do it.
But it's not sitting well with him.
"It's disheartening - I wanted to do it without anything," he told the Buffalo News over the weekend. "To me, it just personally takes away from it."
ABC isn't budging, however. When reached Tuesday, spokesman Jeffrey Schneider insisted there were "ongoing discussions" with Wallenda over wearing a harness.
"We had always made clear from the beginning that significant safety precautions would need to be taken. This is the outcome of that," he said.
Wallenda has never worn a harness for a walk, despite the fact his great-grandfather Karl died after falling from a tightrope in 1978.
Rick Hemmerling, who was visiting Niagara Falls from Las Vegas Tuesday, said he's no longer interested in watching the walk.
"It ruins everything," he said. "You might as well let me go across. With no danger, there's no excitement involved. I won't be watching."
Since the Niagara Falls walk was announced earlier this month, Wallenda has hinted there may be a harness. While speaking to students from Notre Dame Elementary School last week, he offhandedly revealed he'd be wearing a safety harness, but didn't specify whether it would be for the whole walk.
That's now the case.
Even with the harness, ABC insists the nighttime walk across the falls will be a special event.
"We are certain that this is still going to be a very dramatic, thrilling and exciting event that the whole country can gather around their TV sets and watch," Schneider said. "When you factor in the walk at night, in the mist, and the length of the walk...it's really an extraordinary effort."
When asked if ABC was flat-out removing the risk of someone dying on live TV, Schneider said: "The answer to that question speaks for itself."