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ArcelorMittal Orbit Queen elizabeth olympic park, london

Step back with me, if you will, six years. I’d applied for tickets for the London 2012 Olympic Games, but was unsuccessful with my bid. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. I’m still annoyed, even though that’s all history now.

The reason I mention this fact is simply because I haven’t had any reason to visit the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in all the time it’s been open.

However yesterday I rectified that, when I travelled out to Stratford with the sole purpose of using a Christmas present that was given to me by my nephew Andrew and his wife Billinda.

But before I headed to the “main event” I decided to stroll around the park a little, and enjoy this magnificent space.

The Zaha Hadid designed London Aquatics Centre is impressive and dominates the entrance from the Westfield Stratford City approach.

Crossing one of many rivers, that run through the park, you are immediately greeted by the reconfigured London Stadium, now home of UK Athletics and West Ham United Football Club.

As I wandered through the beautiful landscaped spaces, I watched as individuals, couples, families, and groups of friends enjoyed the sunshine. Everyone happily coexisted with one another regardless of whether they were on foot or on bicycles. I spoke at length with one of the park security supervisors – a pleasant gentleman with lots of good chat.

But soon I was on my way to the ArcelorMittal Orbit, at 114.5 metres it is the UK’s largest piece of public art, in the form of a sculpture and an observation tower.

The slide twists and turns 12 times

The original structure was designed by Turner-prize winning artist Sir Anish Kapoor with Cecil Balmond. More recently though, the world’s longest and tallest tunnel slide, designed by Carsten Höller, has been incorporated into the sculpture, as an extra attraction for visitors to experience.

Ever since this slide was announced I’ve bored people silly about wanting to go on it. This was the reason why I was in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Andrew and Billinda had kindly given me a trip for two people down the slide. However my response to them was “If you think I’m taking someone with me, then think again! I’m going to go down that slide twice.”

After booking online several weeks ago, the day had finally arrived. Once through security, at the check-in desk I noticed the adverts to hire a GoPro camera to video your experience. Keen to share my trip with the people who gave it to me in the first place, I purchased a video ticket and made my way to Level 1 and the top of the slide.

Tall enough to slide!

I made one final check against the ruler, to satisfy myself that I was taller than the minimum height requirement. Then donned the head and elbow protectors provided by staff, plus the GoPro camera. Within a few brief minutes I was at the top of the slide, being given a safety briefing. And then I was off. Waayyyheeyyy…!

After getting my video processed and chatting to fellow sliders in the gift shop, I then took my second trip down the slide. This was just as thrilling as the first time, and I’m pretty confident that I’ll slide down it again another day.

But there is so much more to the AcelorMittal Orbit than just it’s slide. I retrieved my belongings from my locker and then ascended to the observation floor. The views of the park and the city skylines, from here, are breath-taking.

Instead of taking the elevator back to the ground floor, I decided to walk down the stairs that spiral around the structure. I’m so glad that I made that choice, as there are audio soundscapes positioned at various points during the descent. Columbia Road Flower Market, the Bow Bells, Lee Valley Velodrome and The O2 Arena are just some of the things that you can hear on your walk down.

My advice woild be to take your time to descend. Stop and listen to the audio. Reflect on what you’re hearing. Each sound will trigger a different emotion – well, they did for me anyway.

It will also provide you with opportunities to really appreciate the complexity and beauty of the sculpture that you are on. Each time I looked up, down or acrosss, different shapes, spaces and patterns formed before me.

And after all the sliding, viewing and listening was done, I rounded off my time in the park by meeting my friend Lynne for lunch and a natter. Altogether a perfect Christmas present enjoyed on a sunny Saturday in July.

Created By
Derek Digital
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