Last Friday saw the opening of the newest London viewing point – the roof of the O2 at Greenwich. Kate Hamer went along to see what all the fuss was about.
‘Up at the O2’ is the latest tourist attraction in London. A walkway has been built which goes right over the former Millennium Dome with a viewing platform at the top. I went along with my mate Michael on the second day of opening.
We checked in at Base Camp at 10am and were directed to the briefing room. Here you find a double sided waiver form on your seat covering every possible eventuality. Michael did try to get out of reading it, asking me if I had read it enough for both of us but I explained that he would then have to sign my waiver which was just as long! We were shown a short video – done as a message from the other side of the Dome and seemingly funny to a couple of tourists in the room, but mainly cheesy. Although I did learn that there are 12 yellow spokes coming out of the dome to represent the months of the year and that it is a perfect 365 circumference for days of year and 52m high for weeks of the year. Interesting eh?!
After the video and the guide had both stressed how important it was to go to the toilet before getting into your climb suit, we were ushered through to collect our kit. It’s a nifty little suit – I was very impressed that they don’t ask your size, just eye you up and miraculously it fits! Once the suit was on it was time to add the harness – I managed to put my legs through the arm holes the first time but got there in the end. In fact Challenge Anneka had nothing on me!
You have to put all your stuff in a locker, only a mobile phone is allowed and you even have a special pocket for your phone on the arm of your suit. I suppose O2 couldn’t really ban them, although Michael had better reception on Orange than I did on O2 at the summit!
After a harness safety check, we set off for the climb. You go up steps to a platform first where you’re taught how to move your safety clip along the wire. Once everyone had got the hang of wiggling it through the joins of each new section, we were ready to start on the first super steep incline. We had already identified the princess of the group and made sure we were far ahead of her, we hadn’t spent £22 each to hear someone moan all the way up there.
The 30 degree incline is really steep, the walkway is rubbery with ridges on it though so you can’t slip too far. Plus your harness wouldn’t let you. It certainly gets your heartbeat up! Before I went I was worried that I might discover I was scared of heights on my way up there, but because you have the mass of the dome underneath you, it never really feels too high.
You make your way in stages with 5 people at a time on each section of the walkway and the guide going up and down to check everyone is ok. It was pretty windy at some parts as you are so exposed up there, I bet it’s lovely when the sun is shining! As you get closer to the centre, the walkways become flatter. At the top you are released from the harness rail and can walk around freely to take photos. Of course the first thing everyone does is update their Twitter or Facebook! If you can get reception (ahem O2!).
There is a fantastic view from up there. You can see the new Emirates Airline cable cars, Greenwich and Canary Wharf. However Canary Wharf does mask a lot of the sites you would expect to see such as the Gherkin, the Shard, the arch of Wembley, Alexandra Palace etc but you can see them on the descent. After ample time to look around, the next group appeared over the brow of the Dome and it was our cue to leave. I thought the steep slope would be worse on the way down but it was ok going sideways. I did ask if anyone had lost their footing and slid to the bottom knocking everyone down like dominoes but disappointingly, your harness isn’t long enough!
Back on terra firma you collect your stuff and, as you would expect, exit through the gift shop! It’s a random selection of product in there, rubber wristbands, cardboard binoculars and plastic drinks pouches – can’t see much of it selling, but I am probably not target tourist audience.
The whole experience takes about 90 minutes and I can highly (excuse the pun) recommend it, it’s a much better trip than the London Eye as you are out in the open and getting a different perspective on the city.
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