Launched into orbit

Posted on 06.12.11 by



As the main press officer for the ArcelorMittal Orbit, the question I get asked the most is “when can I go up it”? Up until very recently my usual answer to the journalists, politicians and employees has been – “not until next year”. However, a couple of weeks ago we were able to offer one freelance photographer, working at the time for The Independent, the chance to be the first non-builder to go up to the top of the ArcelorMittal Orbit and I was lucky enough to accompany her.

The day didn’t actually start with a plan to go up the ArcelorMittal Orbit. We were on site at the Olympic Park in London to meet the guys who have lifted nearly all of the structure’s 2,000 tonnes of steel into place. John, Matt, Wayne, Kirk, Andy and Tom have built some of London’s most iconic buildings – the Olympic Stadium, the Shard and Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 5 – and now they can add the ArcelorMittal Orbit to their impressive resumés.

The guys are always ready with a quick joke – some better than others. They love to call me Clark Kent (on account of my glasses, I think) so this trip to hang out with them for the morning would be a bit of a sad one as their work on the ArcelorMittal Orbit has now finished and they would soon be moving onto new projects.

We managed to capture some great images of the crew and just before we were about to leave, John asked if any of us had ever been up to the top. Replying with a unanimous ‘no’, he asked us if we would like to. Before we could even say yes, we were all putting on personal protective equipment gear and were led into the construction elevator that would launch us 76 metres upwards to the first observation deck.

View from the top

When completed there will be two observation decks, but that is still a few months away. Right now there is just one giant platform with lots of workers installing the windows, floors and other important fixtures. As a result you can’t see much, and so John took us up a set of stairs that would lead us to the top of the platform’s roof (this is already higher than any member of public will ever be allowed).

At more than 80 metres high, you are exposed to all of the elements. You can feel the wind blowing across the sculpture. I now understand why Cecil Balmond said steel was the only material he ever considered for the structure: it needs to be seriously strong.

Looking straight up into the sky and to the horizon, I got a real sense of just how spectacular the view will be once the structure is completed. I can’t wait for the platforms to be finished and the ArcelorMittal Orbit to be opened to the public when everyone will clearly see just how innovative and special the sculpture is.

To read an article featuring John, Matt, Wayne, Kirk, and Andy that appeared in The Independent, go to ––built-by-kirk-matt-andy-john-and-wayne-6267694.html


  • 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games

  • ArcelorMittal

  • ArcelorMittal Orbit

  • London Olympic Games

  • Orbit

  • steel sculpture

  • steel tower