Before sliding, riders take an elevator to one of the Orbit’s two viewing galleries, which boast 20-mile views across London and digital interactive displays about the skyline. Descending a flight of stairs to the launch deck, one is handed protective elbow pads and a head-guard, climbs onto a mat, and is instructed to lie back, before launching into the slide tube and journeying back to earth in 40 seconds.
It’s fast—and inarguably a lot of fun. As the rider turns through 12 twists, the red structure of the Orbit can be glimpsed through transparent polycarbonate panels, before those speeding down are plunged into darkness in totally opaque sections. While one can achieve speeds of 15 miles an hour, it feels much faster. Riders scarcely adapt to being corkscrewed before being birthed, shell-shocked, out on to the landing runway. “The artists see it as a piece of art,” said Peter Tudor, the park’s director of visitor services, at the launch. “We have a permanent Anish Kapoor in the park, similarly with Carsten’s work. At the same time it is an attraction we want people to come to.”
While a blast, the question remains—could the money have been better spent? And given the cash already invested, is it fair to charge? Locals may ask themselves this in the current political climate. Especially since much of the public may see the country sliding into recession before they slide down the Orbit—however enjoyable, and distracting from wider concerns, that may be.