On this January 4th in 2010, the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, topping out at 2,722 ft (just over half a mile high) opened to the public. Impressive in its own way, even if a bit Babel-esque, and one wonders how many migrant workers were used in the project at quasi-slave wages, their passports confiscated until the job was done. Regardless, there it stands, an engineering marvel, even if a philosophical puzzle. Why does one need to be so high, especially in a land that has so much room? Perhaps, to paraphrase Mallory’s reply to a reporter on why he was so adamant to climb Everest – a mountain on which he would eventually die – ‘because it’s there’. We build it, so it will be there.
The building had a starring role the following year in the fourth instalment of the Mission Impossible series, with a harrowing scene of Tom Cruise climbing up and down the smooth windows. Of course, in real life, he was harnessed, with the ropes and pulleys CGI’d out, but, still, it takes something just to get out there, 2000 feet up. If you’d like a bit of an escape from the world, here it be.
In real life, and in the same year, and more impressively, Alain ‘Spiderman’ Robert, climbed to the top of the spire. He usually does so free-style, with no gear or ropes, but by law had to use such on this endeavour.
Three years on, the world record for highest BASE jump was broken by two jumpers from the very top of the pinnacle, at 2,717 feet.
Why? Well, because it’s there.