London Drum

ArcelorMittal Orbit – Observation floor & Slide

ArcelorMittal Orbit
Where? ArcelorMittal Orbit, Queen Elizabeth Park, Stratford · Web: arcelormittalorbit.com Opening times? 11 AM to 3 PM (Mon-Fri); 10 AM to 5 PM (Sat-Sun); Slide opens 30 mins after opening time; Last entry 30 mins before closing Visiting hours may change Price? Adults £12.50; Children £7.50 (3-16); Infants free entry (under-3); Family ticket £34.00 Entry charges may change Time required? A typical visit is 45 mins Buses: 339, D8 Bus fares Trains: The closest station is Stratford Central DLR Overground Elizabeth Jubilee Other nearby stations: Pudding Mill Lane Train fares

Craig’s review… What a crazy name for an attraction: ArcelorMittal Orbit. It sounds like a Russian space station. It doesn’t look much like a space station though. It looks more like a tangled knot of Christmas lights, or a collapsed crane. It’s all twisted metal and bent bits of pipe and wire.

The first time I clapped eyes on this thing I thought it was supposed to be a modern art sculpture but it’s actually an 80-metre high observation deck that overlooks the old Olympic Park. This whole area was heaving with people in 2012, you could hardly walk five feet without getting a flag waved in your face. All of the kids wanted to be like Mo Farah, but now they’re just sitting in their prams being pushed around by fat mums. All of the community volunteers have disappeared. There are a few lazy planes doing circles in the sky and a class of noisy children on a school trip, but that’s about it.

The only parts of Stratford I ever visit are the train station, shopping centre and old Olympic Park. That is more than enough for me – there is only so much concrete and glass that you need to see in one day. You don’t have any choice but to visit the shopping centre, because when you exit the station you get sucked into it. It’s colossal. It’s like a shiny ghost town that spreads out everywhere, full of empty tables in empty cafes, big shops with no one in them, escalators with no one on them, and security guards with nothing to do but pick up a few bits of litter.

I’m sitting in a coffee shop and I’ve got practically the entire place to myself. It reminds me of airport shopping in the early hours of the morning. I’ve hung around a few terminals in my time, waiting for my delayed plane at 3 AM, and everything is equally sleepy here. Same dreamy music playing over the tannoy. Same shop staff slumped inside the stores. Every now and then a river of businessmen come streaming down the corridor towards the exit, but that is the sum total of life in the Westfield Shopping Centre: an occasional blast of action and then it’s back to the sounds of silence: an occasional shoe squeaking on the polished floor, a cleaner wringing out his mop, and a high-pitched screech as someone’s seat is scrapped across the lino.

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

There’s not a lot to do at the Olympic Park other than climb the tower. You can walk around the outside of the stadium and stroll along the bland canal, but that’s pretty much it.┬áSo I suppose I will have to climb the damn tower now (I have run out of excuses). Why do observation towers always have to be so high? It didn’t look this tall when I saw it from the train station, but it looks colossal now that I’m standing underneath it squinting in the sun.

ArcelorMittal Orbit observation floor

They’ve revamped it since the last time I came here. The observation deck obviously wasn’t making them enough money because they’ve decided to wrap a giant corkscrew slide around the outside. It’s that little silver pipe in my photo. (I don’t mean the thick grey band – that’s the walkway. I’m talking about that thin little tube that twists and turns around it.) I haven’t paid for my ticket yet, but I can tell you right now that there is absolutely zero chance of me riding it. I might be mad, but I’m not crazy. I’m not sliding down it, and that’s all there is to it. You can call me a pansy if you want to, but it’s easy for you sitting there in the comfort of your own home – I’m the poor test pilot who has to risk my life sliding down a toothpaste tube at five hundred miles an hour. I’ll take the lift up to the observation deck and describe that (I can just about handle that) – but I’m not riding the slide. No way. I’m not doing it!

The observation deck is just a big circular room with a couple of touchscreens to show you what’s what. And for some strange reason they’ve also decided to install a couple of funny mirrors like you find at the funfair.

View of London’s skyline

The view out of the window is a bit disappointing because Stratford is too far away from the centre of town to pick out anything interesting. You can easily see tall buildings like the Gherkin, Sky Garden and The Shard, but anything smaller than a tower block is difficult to find. The dome of St. Paul’s is easy enough, but you can’t see Big Ben. You can’t see the Tower of London or Tower Bridge either. The London Eye is practically impossible to make out unless you have telescopic eyes. Around to the south you can see the O2 Arena and Canary Wharf. See if you can spot the cable car – that will give you a challenge. You can see the power station at Greenwich as well, but the Royal Observatory and Old Royal Naval College are frustratingly hidden behind some tower blocks.

If you’re a West Ham fan then you can peer down into the Olympic Stadium, but all you can see are the seats – the pitch is hidden by the big white roof.

There are actually two different observation levels, and the lowest one is where all those tube riders line up to die. That is where I am cowering right now.

ArcelorMittal Orbit tunnel slide

Obviously I am standing as far away from the queue as possible, just in case they accidentally drag me into it by mistake, but I can see the look of fear on their faces from here. They are all fidgeting with their partners, clutching onto what looks like a giant sleeping bag – the kind of vice-like clutch that brings out the sharp edges of their bones. As they inch closer to the tube they firmly bash a crash helmet onto their head, wrap their elbows up in protective pads, and place their sleeping bag (their body bag) onto a metal shelf by the lip. I can’t help thinking that the silver shelf looks like a mortuary slab. Then they shuffle their backsides into it, crack a few jokes to try to convince their friends that they’re not absolutely petrified… and disappear. They literally vanish in a nanosecond. One second they’re there, and the next second all that remains is the trailing end of a high-pitched scream.

Have you ever seen those pressurised toilets on an airplane? When you flush the lever on those things everything gets sucked outside at supersonic speed – well, that’s exactly what it’s like. It’s like being sucked out of an airplane toilet. Apparently it only takes forty-seconds to get from top to bottom and you go quicker than the speed of sound. One kid actually travelled back in time – that is how fast he was going. I really cannot stress enough how terrifying this ride is – it’s the scariest thing in London. I would definitely think twice before sending a little kid down it.

If you fancy something a little more sedate then you can try the open-air walkway instead – that big band of grey that wraps around the tower in my photo. You can follow it all the way down to the ground instead of using the lift. The floor seems a little bit flimsy to me, but hey, I’m a total wuss when it comes to heights.

Worth a visit? Value for money? Good for kids? Easy to get to?

I also recommend… If you enjoy this then try London Eye (catch a tube from Stratford to Waterloo); The Shard (take a tube journey from Stratford to London Bridge) and Sky Garden (travel from Stratford to Monument via tube). There are plenty more viewing platforms in London that give you a great view of the London skyline. Try the ones at St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tate Modern, The Monument and One New Change. If you fancy a bit of exercise as well then how about climbing up three of London’s highest hills? Greenwich Hill, Primrose Hill and Parliament Hill

London Squire bookThe owns londondrum.com and has spent the last decade reviewing the capital’s landmarks, attractions and hotels. His guidebook is available from Amazon

Your comments and questions

Sarah Is the slide too scary for children?

Craig Hi Sarah. I've never actually been on it myself, but from watching them disappear down the tube I would definitely think twice before you send a little kid down it. People are supposed to reach speeds of 15 mph which doesn't sound very much, but you've got 40 seconds of that, twisting and turning down a thin little pipe.

SP My ten year old son thought the slide was brilliant and wanted to do it again. I was then persuaded to try it myself and what freaked me out was how long the ride was, I totally underestimated how long I was going to be in there and it seemed to go on forever. I am very glad that I did it, but I wouldn't do it again! If you enjoy the thrill you get from rollercoasters than it's the same kind of feeling as that

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