Shanghai Skywalk 1996

25th anniversary

Shanghai Tourism Festival

September 24, 2021

25 years ago on September 24, 1996, Jay Cochrane opened the annual Shanghai Tourism Festival with a spectacular skywalk 500 feet over the glittering Chinese city.

Jay walked to the top of the Bao'an Tower, a 35-story skyscraper under construction in the city's Pudong district, covering a distance of 600 feet, beginning atop the Tompson Commercial Building. Once one of the city's biggest slums, the area was blossoming with skyscrapers as far as one could see. In 1990, the district was designated a development zone and immediately began its rebirth.

Today, it contains a major port, a venue for world-class sporting events, a financial hub, and a high-tech zone.

During the two weeks I was there with Jay, Shanghai opened its arms to the Canadian performer. When Jay arrived in Shanghai, his skywalk over the Yangtze River was fresh in everyone's minds. At the airport, there was a buzz as Jay went through customs. He was greeted like a rock star.

"The people of China have changed my life," Jay told me. "My personal regret is that I didn't start here 20 years ago. I do hope that our western influence doesn't change their culture and philosophy."

Jay's skywalk drew the largest crowd of the eight-day festival on the site and an estimated 250,000 lined the streets below him to watch his journey across the sky.

I gained a position atop a skyscraper that looked at the entire wire from its side. Atop my building were nearly 100 people shouting and cheering as he passed over the Oriental Pearl Radio & Television Tower, a beautiful combination of 11 spheres with fifteen observatory levels and a revolving restaurant that was a prime viewing location for Jay's performance. It was the tallest building in China from 1994 to 2007.

"It was thrilling to be the showpiece of an event that featured over 4,000 performers," said Jay at the press conference earlier in the day. "Shanghai is incredible, what a marvel."

And Jay was treated like royalty throughout the city. During construction of the wire, the workers gathered around him and listened to every word he had to say through interpreters. He picked up their language in bits and pieces after spending nearly three months in Fengjie the year before for the Great China Skywalk and thrilled them with a "Xie, Xie" whenever he finished talking.

During our stay in Shanghai, Jay was the talk of the town. Everywhere we went he was treated like a rock star. One night, we went to a meet and greet at a local shopping mall. The line for autographs was around the building.

China was one of Jay's favorite places. We celebrate Jay's performance over Shanghai on the 25th anniversary.

Jay Cochrane skywalks in Shanghai, China, for the opening night of the Shanghai Tourism Festival on September 24, 1996, passing above the Pearl of the Orient tower in the Pudong district.