CBC Digital Archives

1976: CN Tower opens to the public

This clip is from a "stocks tape": it contains unedited footage shot by news gathering cameras on location. Only selected shots are used on air.

The idea seems preposterous: redefine the Toronto skyline by building the world's tallest tower, half a kilometre high, visible across Lake Ontario. Yet after 40 months of construction and pouring over 40,000 cubic metres of concrete, the CN Tower is complete. It is the world's tallest free-standing structure, dwarfing its competition: 110 metres higher than Chicago's Sears Tower, twice the height of Paris' Eiffel Tower, and three times the height of Berlin's Funkturm.

The footage taken is of the construction and opening of the tower. The first section shows the midnight party of the tower's June 26, 1976 opening. In the remaining section, CBC television crews follow the construction of the tower as it grows skyward from Toronto's waterfront.

• The CN Tower is 553.33 metres high. It was recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the World's Tallest Free-Standing Structure and World's Tallest Building for more than 30 years. The Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat disputed that claim, arguing a "building" must be designed for residential, business or manufacturing. They instead cited the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia as the world's tallest building, at 452 metres above street level.  

• On Sept. 12, 2007, the skyscraper Burj Dubai in the United Arab Emirates reached 555.3 metres, surpassing the CN Tower. At 609 metres as of April 2008, it is already the tallest man-made structure in the world. Scheduled for completion in 2009, the final height of the Burj Dubai is being kept a secret.

• The CN Tower was built by Canadian National at a cost of $57 million to be a landmark and a demonstration of the strength of Canadian industry. But it had practical origins as well. In the 1960s a construction boom in downtown Toronto brought skyscrapers that caused serious problems with television signals. With the arrival of the CN Tower's microwave receptors and tall antenna, Torontonians enjoy some of the cleanest reception in North America.

• Many European cities have tall telecommunications towers. Some are taller than the CN Tower, but are held up by wires. In other words, they are not "free-standing."

• At 342 metres, the CN Tower has a glass floor and outdoor observation deck. There is a café and indoor observation deck at 346 metres, and at 351 metres there is a restaurant that rotates once every 72 minutes. The upper-level Skypod observation deck is 447 metres high.

• The original plans for the tower called for three towers linked together by bridges.

• Copper grounding wires were installed to protect the tower from lighting strikes. The tower is hit by lightning about 75 times a year.

• Almost two million visitors ascend the tower every year.

• The CN Tower's 102-metre communications mast was installed using a giant Sikorsky Skycrane helicopter nicknamed Olga. Olga's daily schedule was printed in newspapers so Torontonians could watch it in action.

• The Sikorsky Skycrane was first built in 1963. It was a "flying crane" designed to carry payloads of up to 4500 kilograms. The U.S. Army used it in the Vietnam War to recover downed aircraft.

• Sikorsky now manufactures the U.S. Army's Comanche and Black Hawk helicopters.

A few unusual CN Tower world records:
• 1980: Donn Reynolds yodelled from the Skypod roof for seven hours and 29 minutes
• 1984: Wearing pads, stuntman Roger Brown fell down 1760 steps in one hour and 51 minutes
• 1986: "Spider Dan" Goodwin climbed the tower's 335 metres of windows twice in one day
• 1999: Ashrita Furman of New York climbed up 1899 steps in 57 minutes - on a pogo stick

Also on June 26:
1945: The United Nations Charter is signed in San Francisco by 50 countries including Canada.
1990: The final report of the Dubin Royal Commission on drugs in sport recommends that Canadian athletes exposed as users of banned drugs be denied federal funding. The inquiry was launched after the 1988 Ben Johnson Olympic steroid scandal.
2000: One of the most significant scientific breakthroughs comes as researchers in six countries announce they have completed the working map of the human genetic code. The Human Genome Project decoded the 3.1 billion base pairs in human DNA, which will help identify the 60-100,000 genes in humans.

Medium: Television
Stock-shot
Program: CBC Television News
Broadcast Date: June 26, 1976
Duration: 6:52

Last updated: June 25, 2013

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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