An abseiling experience at The ArcelorMittal Orbit finds Stirling contemplating life, love and an astonishing view…
Martin, the master of ropes, calls me across the threshold which is a set of steps bridging a short metal wall separating the area of relative safety to a platform that leaves you exposed to the drop of 262 feet to the grounds of the Olympic Park below. He asks “Have you done this kind of thing before?” I nod and say ‘a bit’, and he looks at me with a ‘not like this, you haven’t’ expression on his face. I laugh, like a child, with excitement and anticipation. Well, this is an exciting way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
Although thoroughly tied on, strapped in and locked tightly into all manner of carabiners and harnesses (the safety is exemplary) the mildly menacing, softly spoken words from my children on the way to the park still echo in my head. “Don’t worry, Daddy, you’re probably not going to die”. Thank you. Thank you very much. Perhaps, as you grow older, you will consider a career in confidence coaching? If you get to grow older, that is.
The Orbit, grand and imposing art from Anish Kapoor, stands a javelin throw from the Olympic Stadium. Its twisting red exoskeleton and rusty red ‘echo dome’ are now iconic and well known around the world. You can venture up the inside and gaze across the vistas presented from the viewing platforms – or, if you feel the need to do it with a little more aplomb, you can tether yourself to the outside and abseil down like a hero.
“Lean back…that’s it…a little more. Oh, you have done this before!” comments Martin with a little surprise. By which point my ar*e is hanging completely over the edge, thankfully only Lady Stirling and my two life coaches were close enough to see, they wave at me furiously from safety inside. “Now take a step down,” adds Martin, “Keep going, that’s it.” I step down onto a vertical steel strut, my legs jelly for a moment, then recover their mettle. “And off you go!” I feed the rope, I step off, I lower myself a little more and, suddenly, I’m hanging – all of my own volition – 250 feet up, looking across London, the Olympic Park, across good old Blighty, the world. My breath is taken.
I spend a little time suspended there, swinging gently, taking it all in, absorbing life, feeling the wind blow against my face – the Orbit to one side, the metropolis of London and the surrounding countryside to the other – without a window or mesh fence to get in the way of the view I felt closer to it, it was visceral. It was wonderful. My moment of contemplation drifts off and I return to the descent. This time a bit quicker, Martin said not too much ‘SAS’, but what the hell, The Arbuturian hasn’t got to where it is by embracing modesty – I tug at the line and get up to a pretty good speed before the Master of the Rope pulls on the breaks from up on high. Spoilsport.
I’m greeted at the bottom by applause and obvious wonder by my family. High-fives and hugs abound and as I’m being de-trussed a little voice pipes up, “I told you, Daddy”. Yes you did, my love, yes you did.
The ArcelorMittal Orbit, Abseiling experience is available until August on selected dates, prices start at £85.00 and bookings for the brave & adventurous can be made here: http://arcelormittalorbit.com/abseiling