Since the Paralympics finished much of the Olympic Park site has not been accessible to the public whilst buildings were adopted to their longer term use. The park, soon to be renamed the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, is huge (1 sq km). In the week that a local professional football (soccer) club secured a long term tenancy of the main stadium I had a ticket for a tour of the Park, called ‘Park in Progress’. In fact it was for the first tour on the first day!
During my visit during the actual events last summer I was unable to visit the huge public sculpture close to the main venue – the ArcelorMittal Orbit which is the largest piece of sculpture in the UK. This visit would enable me to go up the Orbit.
Tickets for the tour can be booked at this web site and are £15 for adults with discounts for children and the over 60’s. The whole tour lasts about an hour, but you can stay at the Orbit as long as you wish.
You can get to the office where the tour departs by using the Docklands Light Railway (Pudding Mill Lane station), or by buses to Marshgate Lane stop. It is near the eastern end of the Bow Flyover.
You arrive in a pre-fabricated, temporary building with several rows of seats and staff milling about to answer questions. There is a short safety video from the Mayor of London – (please please please can I be leader of the Tory Party, would be a better name for the video which is largely pointless in my view.) Staff then hand out hi-viz jackets and hard hats, neither of which are compulsory and so slightly pointless.
The video last about 10 minutes and then, tickets and ID being checked, you exit the building for a waiting coach. One on board (and the legroom would could give Ryanair ideas), you are treated to a guided tour of parts of the park you drive through to get to the Orbit.
At the Orbit
The lifts are quick and you soon come out on the upper of the two viewing platforms.
Panoramic views of London await, those to the East as far as the Dartford Crossing and the West right in to the City and West End. Aircraft landing at City Airport and visible also, as is Canary Wharf.
After you have finished walking around the inside and outside areas you make your way down to the lower platform. The flooring has holes in which enable you look down and to catch views as you walk out over the footprint.
You can exit either via the walkway which takes you all the way to the ground, or via the lift.
You pop back in the bus and are dropped off at the boarding point.
Cheaper than The Shard and offering a chance to visit the Olympic Park before it returns to public use – a Park truly in Progress.