Ok, so the plan is put into motion to complete the Geeklist, so here I tackle the O2 Arena.
When I created the Geek List, let’s face it…I was off my head on Tramadol and trying to figure out how to get my life back on track. And now here I was, at the O2, in Greenwich, the site of the failed Millennium Dome finally doing when I set out to do.
I was joined on this misadventure with my nephew C, who’s just finished his exams, waiting for his results, so it was a grand day out and yeah I got a discount with Groupon! So here we both were, standing there watching people ascend what we would be doing in an hour because it’s something different and take in the views.
Have to admit even though the O2, has been opened for years, it was only three years ago some genius looked up and thought “Climbing that would be fun”, especially since the O2, or since it was renamed for Olympics “The North Greenwich Arena” due to the corporate sponsorship ban.
Prior to that, it was empty, a waste of space, a blight on the land, the white elephant of failure called the Millennium Dome. Which I didn’t visit because it was only open for a year, and fifteen pounds was expensive back then and for way of celebrating the Millennium and Great Britain, for those who pay enough to sponsor it, and those dumb enough to buy tickets for it.
I do give them dues for its symmetry and incorporating Greenwich Mean Time, since it has 12 supports that represent the months of the year and the hours on a clock face. This is an attempt to pay homage to the role of Greenwich Mean Time. The circular dome also has a diameter of 365 metres to represent the days of the year and centre, which we climbed, is a full 52 metres tall to represent the 52 weeks in each year.
According to the website, only six million people bothered that year, so it was closed, the stuff and exhibitions demolished, what was imagined to be one the same level as the Eiffel Tower quickly became a joke in the capital well until five years later when the plot of land in Greenwich that was once sick and polluted was reborn as The O2 Arena.
Now over the years I’ve been to this venue a few times, the first was the time I’m managed to score free tickets to see Bon Jovi, which was fantastic and the second that really sticks out was when sister R brought me a ticket to see The Spice Girls Reunion Concert! Having never been a fan of the group, at least I was spending time with my sister. It didn’t change the fact that fortified by wine I knew all the words to the songs, which scared me on some level.
The last concert I saw there were The Backstreet Boys, which was amazing since R got it for a Christmas present for me, and since at the time I was still in moon boot so she got floor tickets. I know right!
So over the last ten years, this crap storm of a tent has become a beloved London icon because there is so much to do there. But now I was going to climb it, after we walked in, and had to sign waivers, of which I had to sigh C’s because he’s a minor and if anything happened to him I would be responsible…and if anything did I would live in fear of my sister K for the rest of my life!
So here we were waivers signed, and watched a film giving out the impression of a global expedition, no man get left behind, Captain Oates sacrificed himself for the team type of thing. Which explained what we would be wearing, and how we would be harnessed and clad in boiler suits and how we had to do what our instructor said.
Our instructor for this mission was Ben, an ex-PE teacher, who does this at least four times a day, who explained that we would be harnessed at all times, and there would be no way to fall, as we were escorted to the next room to put our stuff away and because the weather was great we could wear our own clothes and these waistcoats for the harness attachment.
A bit better than looking like you’re about to conquer Everest, speaking of which on the wall of the changing area these was a picture of Sir Edmund Hillary, the apparent first person to conqueror Mount Everest. Yeah, always been a bit dubious of that, are you really trying to tell me the Sherpa living at the foot of the mountain for hundreds of years never looked up at that and thought “You know I’m off work tomorrow, might give that a try?”
But anyway, we were in the waistcoats and about to be harnessed through the legs and over the body, and let’s just say the guy who designed the harnesses never factored in let’s say Viking looking woman, because it was tight and put on the special trainers we had to use, to protect that surface from cross contamination and dirt and all that stuff, but have to give them their dues I may have been the thousandth person to wear the shoes, but they were really comfy.
So here we were in the lift, at the ascent, looking up with a moment of “Oh my god what the hell am I doing?” with a right foot hurting in advance, since I forgot to bring my deep freeze with me…I know right. Foot full of metal, and I forget that. Because of this C and I opted to go at the back, so we wouldn’t hold anyone up, and after the souvenir pictures, we were attached to the O2 cables, from that moment, no backing out, it was done.
Now that cables leading up and down to the building, have two functions, one is to keep you attached at all times, the other is to make sure that your own safety and everyone else’s is observed, in the cables, after a few meters is a wedge that you have to release your harness over before you go to the next section.
Have to give them dues for designing these things, even if they are fiddley sods, and trust me there are over two hundred you have to navigate over in total, yes at the end you feel every single one, but at the same time, there easy to ignore.
As we were going up, my plan to film the entire thing failed when we were told at the ascent and descent, there is no photography allowed, since people have done so and dropped their phones onto the O2 roof, which must lead to one of the funniest cancellation calls ever, sadly we never saw any on said roof as we went up.
Now we were all expecting a hard surface, instead the blue platforms are made of spongy material, which is also the same thing the O2 canopy is also made of, now as we were ascending there is a moment where the support on the edges drops away and we’re open to the elements.
From the bottom it looks working, since it’s the sharpest ascent point, but open to the air, and since I’m not that fantastic with height both of us were expecting to be concerned, but there was nothing, just a beautiful day climbing on the building. Ok, the walk was hard, but not too extreme, as we finally made it halfway and to the viewing platform.
Now after going up the London Eye, on the South Bank, hence there is so much stuff to see, in Greenwich, well not so much. There is Canary Wharf, and some nice views of the Thames, but it’s nice views, it was a clear day and were standing between the iconic yellow supports, with camera at the ready, whilst C being a gymnast fulfilled his ambition of doing a handstand at the top.
To our right was the Emirates Air Line cable car ride across the River Thames which we considered doing, but decided to do that at a later date, now at the top looking around feeling a sense of achievement for managing to get up there, which took about twenty five minutes, it was a perfect day, for once the weather was wonderful, there was a nice cool breeze in the air even though there was really nothing to focus on as view go, it’s one of those moments that London, well London that we could see looked beautiful.
One thing I do give them credit for, was that we were never rushed, and the tour guide knew London well enough to point out several landmarks, and take out pictures as well as moving across the extremely large platform, until we were told to go down. Now this was the hard part, due to the pressure and because of this I was at the back with C, as Ben pointed out great views, even though the final decent part, was torture on my foot, have no idea how everyone else was but I was in pain, but worth it.
At the bottom out of our harnesses and suits we had the option for souvenirs so I got a fridge magnet for us, but overall, it took just over an hour to do it all, but was it worth it. Well if you want better views go elsewhere, but thanks to Ben who was a fantastic guide, and the experience of climbing something that only fifteen years ago was a blight on the land, yeah worth every penny.