ORLANDO, Fla. (Reuters) - High-wire performer Nik Wallenda is set to stroll untethered atop the new 400-foot (122 m) high Orlando Eye on Wednesday morning, inaugurating a new observation Ferris wheel as it spins at the rate of one mile per hour (1.6 km per hour).
Wallenda, 36, who has recently traversed cables spanning the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls and two Chicago skyscrapers, said at a press conference this week that he had hoped to walk the Eye when he first saw it under construction during a family trip to Orlando.
The stunt will be his first public walk without the use of a balancing pole, which doesn’t fit within the wheel’s structure.
The walk, scheduled to start between 8 a.m. and 8:15 a.m. ET (1200-1215 GMT) will air live on NBC’s Today show, according to a spokeswoman for Merlin Entertainments Plc, which owns the attraction.
Wallenda will get on the attraction just like any other passenger. Once at the top, he will climb out of his capsule and down a ladder before walking along a six-inch-wide moving wheel rim. He will not be able to pause or slow down, and will have to duck multiple times beneath protruding structural pieces on and between the four capsules he will pass.
He said he’s been practicing pacing and walking without a pole, and hopes to achieve another Guinness world record.
“It’s not too hard to focus when you’re 400 feet up without any safety devices. In fact there is no choice but to focus,” said Wallenda, who comes from seven generations of aerial acrobats and whose mother walked a wire while six months pregnant with him.
“Often it becomes peaceful when I’m in this situation because the troubles of the world go away,” he added. “I don’t fear for death. That’s where my faith plays a key role in my life.”
The Orlando Eye, which allows guests to walk around and take in 360-degree views from glass capsules, is nearly identical to the 15-year-old London Eye which Merlin says is the biggest paid attraction in the United Kingdom.
If forecasted showers and a possible thunderstorm force a delay, Wallenda’s expected 3 minute to 5 minute walk will be rescheduled for Thursday.
The Eye’s official opening on Monday coincides with the launch of five other new attractions in Orlando’s tourist corridor adjacent to the nation’s second-largest convention center, which itself draws 12 million conference-goers a year.
Besides the Eye, new attractions include the world’s tallest drop ride at 460 feet, and a 500-foot roller coaster.
Editing by David Adams and Alan Crosby