WE ADMIRED the ArcelorMittal Orbit at London 2012 during the Paralympic Games and at the time thought of how great it would be to climb up it one day and survey the surroundings from a vantage point on the UK’s tallest sculpture.
My recent trip sure didn’t disappoint. After taking the lift to the second floor we were treated to breath-taking views of up to 20 miles across London’s famous skyline and the iconic sporting venues of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
In 2009, a design competition was held to create an iconic landmark that would become the centrepiece of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and commemorate the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The winning concept was a creative collaboration between world-renowned artist Sir Anish Kapoor and structural engineer Cecil Balmond.
During a chance meeting with Lakshmi Mittal – Chair and CEO of ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steel company – former Mayor of London Boris Johnson secured his support to provide the steel necessary to create the sculpture. Construction began in November 2010, with the structure reaching its full height of 114.5m by November 2011. The ArcelorMittal Orbit was revealed to the public on 11th May 2012, and around 130,000 people visited the sold-out attraction during the Games.
Following a period of closure after the Games, the ArcelorMittal Orbit fully reopened to the public on Saturday, 5th April 2014, when the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park once again welcomed the public.
In July 2015, planning permission was granted to add a slide to the ArcelorMittal Orbit. Anish Kapoor invited German artist Carsten Höller, well known for his slide installations, to create it. Work began on The Slide in early 2016, with the first piece being lifted into place in April of that year. The final piece was added in early June 2016, and The Slide opened to the public on 24th June 2016. The opening weekend sold out in advance of the attraction opening.
To explore London’s extraordinary skyline visitors must ascend 114.5m into the clouds, to the top of the ArcelorMittal Orbit, before experiencing the city’s landmarks from the outside observation walkway suspended 80m above the ground.
There’s a lot to see from the ArcelorMittal Orbit’s two viewing platforms – from St Paul’s Cathedral, the O2 to Wembley – and there’s a bird’s eye view of the London 2012 venues to enjoy. You can even get up close to London’s landmarks with innovative and interactive touchscreens that allow you to zoom into the view and learn more about the city.
The ArcelorMittal Orbit perfectly combines awe-inspiring city views with fun and contemporary art. Visitors can interact with the sculpture itself, experience the thrill of The Slide, flip the horizon in Anish Kapoor’s two huge concave mirrors and enjoy the gentle descent of the 455 steps that wind their way around the sculpture and immerse you in a recorded collection of distinctive London sounds such as church bells and local markets.
The ArcelorMittal Orbit is 22m taller than the Statue of Liberty and six times taller than the Angel of the North. The upper viewing gallery is 80m high and the lower one is 76m high. The staircase is made completely from recycled steel and takes about 12 minutes to walk down. The sculpture is made from 2,000 tonnes of steel, made by ArcelorMittal, which is the equivalent weight of 1,136 London Black Cabs. It took just over two years to build and contains over 35,000 bolts.
The Slide is a unique collaboration between two of the world’s most renowned contemporary artists. It is the world’s tallest and longest tunnel slide at 178m long and 76m high. In the exhilarating trip, riders slide on a specially designed mat and hit speeds of up to 15 miles per hour. Visitors are also able see out through polycarbonate ‘windows’ during parts of their descent.
It’s not for the faint-hearted, and you are advised to grip tightly as you descend like a bullet through a myriad of twists, turns and drops as The Slide weaves its way through the red steel frame of the UK’s tallest sculpture. To be precise, it’s an exhilarating 34 second descent down the 178m long slide for the brave souls who meander through light and dark sections as The Slide loops its way around the ArcelorMittal Orbit twelve times, taking visitors through gentle curves, thrilling drops and a tight corkscrew named “the bettfeder” – “bedspring” in German.
With breath-taking views of London, the world’s longest and tallest tunnel slide and the UK’s highest freefall abseil, the ArcelorMittal Orbit is a viewing experience like no other.
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