ArcelorMittal Orbit review (Jul 2015)
This is an old review Read my most recent review here
What a crazy name for an attraction: the 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 might be some sort of modern art sculpture, but it's actually an 80-metre high observation deck that looks out over the old Olympic Park. It was designed by a sculptor though: Anish Kapoor. I don't know if you remember, but he was the guy who famously filled the Tate Modern with porcelain sunflower seeds and gave everyone asthma attacks because of all the dust floating around. Let's hope he's thought the one through a bit better.
Do you remember the London Olympics in 2012? -- it was built for that. We've knocked down half of the sports stadia and kept the cable car and this observation post. We've still got the Velodrome and the Aquatics Centre (because we were good at those), and West Ham have taken over the main stadium, but there's not much of a buzz about the place anymore. They seem to have turned it into a huge building site. God knows what they're building because there are ten thousand cranes and builders all hammering and banging everywhere you go. It's like they're starting a whole new city from scratch.
There's not a lot to do at the old Olympic Park other than climb this tower. You can walk around the outside of the stadium I suppose, and stroll along the bland canal, and do some shopping at the Westfield Centre. But that's about it. I remember when this place was heaving with people for the Olympics -- you could hardly walk five feet without getting a flag waved in your face. All of the kids wanted to be like Mo Farah; now they're just sitting in their prams being pushed around by fat mums. All of the community volunteers have disappeared. There's just a few lazy planes doing circles in the sky and a class of noisy children on a school trip. So 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 so tall when I was saw it from the train station, but it looks a lot higher now that I'm standing underneath it squinting in the sun.
When you're up there it's actually not too bad (it's not scary at all) -- you come out into an enclosed room that's wrapped around in glass. There's another room one level down (with the same views) and you can step outside onto an open-air walkway that is enclosed by a tight metal mesh. The floor seemed a bit flimsy to me, though, so I wasn't very happy with that -- but I'm a total wuss when it comes to heights. If you are feeling totally daft then you can actually follow the walkway all the way down to the ground (it's that band of grey that wraps around the column in my photos). I decided to give that a miss and take the lift.
The best view is straight down into the Olympic Stadium itself, and across the Olympic Village to the Velodrome. You also get a fairly decent view of the skyscrapers at Canary Wharf and The O2, but Greenwich seems to be hidden behind the towers. The Square Mile is quite a distance, but you get some easy views of the Gherkin, the Walkie Scorchie and The Shard. See if you can spot the dome of St. Paul's (easy) and Wembley Stadium (hard). Believe it or not, that was pretty much all that I could see. It sounds a bit daft, but whilst the observation deck is quite high, Stratford is a bit too far away from the centre of town to pick out anything interesting. There are no telescopes or anything like that to help you, and there no maps of the skyline on the walls (you have to buy a guidebook for that).
To be honest I thought the whole thing was a bit rubbish. The cost is a bit greedy for what they offer (thirty minutes of looking out of a window), and there's nothing else to do in Stratford when you're finished. I could understand the interest when the Olympics were on, but now you're just staring down onto a load of boring offices and concrete plazas. If you want a decent observation deck then I'd stick with the London Eye and The Shard. Check out my review of One New Change as well, which is a far better option than this place.
I’ve been here before…
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