We went hurtling down London’s craziest slide

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The ArcelorMittal Orbit Slide in the Olympic Park is not for the faint-hearted.

Olympic legacies are a tricky thing. Once the fun and games are over, host cities often find themselves with an empty urban space that becomes derelict. London has done a better job of maintaining its Olympic area than others, however, with the Westfield shopping centre and Queen Elizabeth Park attracting visitors and locals. But to give attendance numbers a boost they’ve decided to transform one of the specially commissioned Olympic artworks – Anish Kapoor’s scarlet, looping sculpture, the ArcelorMittal Orbit – by building a slide on the outside: it’s the “world’s tallest, longest, fastest tunnel slide” and it’s an exhilarating journey down. 

They recommend you turn up 15 minutes before your allocated drop. When we emerged from the sparkling labyrinth of Westfield and saw the slide in front of us we stopped in our tracks. It’s way bigger than you expect – almost twice the height of the Olympic Stadium next to it. We passed through a small exhibition detailing facts and figures about the sculpture and the highlights of the 2012 Olympics before emerging at the base. Although the Orbit’s been criticised as an eyesore, there’s a sprawling complexity to it when you’re up close that’s almost sublime. (Or maybe it was just the nerves.) We put our loose clothing, large jewellery and the contents of our pockets into a locker for a £1 deposit and then took the lift up to the top.

When we arrived at the slide floor the nerves reached a climax. One by one we watched people before us don a light helmet, kneepads and armpads and get inside a black bodybag that serves as the vehicle for the drop. Then they would fall suddenly and for the next 40 seconds we would hear their shrieks as they hurtled down the looping trajectory. “Don’t worry about the screaming,” one of the many helpful workers told us. “It’s when they’re silent that you worry.”

A few minutes later we were standing at the base of the sculpture again, having just experienced the ride of a lifetime. It’s genuinely terrifying at times – half of the slide is opaque so you’re often plunged into darkness, and there are a few violent turns – but we all wanted to go again.

Experience the ArcelorMittal Orbit Slide

Tickets for the Arcelor Mittal Orbit Slide cost £15 for adults, £12 for students and £10 for children.

To get there from Generator London, take the Northern line from Euston to Tottenham Court Road, then take the Central line eastbound to Stratford.