The O2 Arena was London’s gift to the world. But, much like a child’s Christmas present, its packaging brings more thrills than its contents.
Born in 1999 as the Millennium Dome, this edifice of time stood as a token of the anticipated jubilation at the dawn of a new age. Within you’ll find restaurants, shops, and even a rock’n'roll museum — enough to keep locals and tourists alike occupied for the next 1000 years. Ironic then that you don’t have to step foot inside to experience the greatest thrill the arena provides.
Inspired by that man of men James Bond in ‘The World Is Not Enough’, in which 007 wrestles atop the dome before spiralling down its facade (and all before the opening credits, too!), I decided to take advantage of the O2′s recent decision to allow intrepid explorers the opportunity to walk over the dome and follow in the footsteps of such daredevils as Bond… and the young woman standing in front of me in line.
But first, every great adventurer should be kitted out in threads that reflect the magnitude of the task they are to undertake and, perhaps, reveal a little something about the person within. Bond, for instance, fancied the tuxedo — debonair and sleek. I, however, have gone a decidedly different route. Safety is my middle name, as I don what will undoubtedly become the talk of Savile Row. My blue jumpsuit is both comfortable (until the tethered rigging is secured between my legs, that is) and warm — a factor that will contribute to my survival once I’m walking amongst the clouds some 50 metres above ground. Shoes are also provided for those who brought stilettos, presuming they gave something of a height advantage.
The first thing I noticed is that the dome’s ascent is so gradual that it is less a climb and more a hillside walk. Though there is an initial incline that had me reaching for my calves to perform an ad hoc self-administered massage, the trail approached level before too long, permitting me respite and a chance to indulge in a view of London Town that improved with every step forward. With our guide peppering us with dome trivia (did you know it would take Niagara Falls 15 minutes to fill the dome if it were turned upside-down?), it is here, with the roof of the dome expanding at my sides in both directions, that I grasped just how huge it truly is.
Faced with the contrasting juxtaposition, I tugged on my tether to ensure my Bond emulation stopped short of the tumble. Safety is not spared on this trek, with experienced “sherpas” never more than a few feet away from you and your clip, which is secured tightly to a metal rail leading to the dome’s summit. To progress requires a hand on the clip pushing it along the rail. Were you to let go for whatever reason, the clip would lock and you would find yourself tilting ever so slightly.
The caravan of climbers of which I was a part (groups average about a dozen in number) marched forward, stopping occasionally at the checkpoints along the trail to the top — a top we stepped upon following our 15-minute climb. With destiny fulfilled I looked out in all directions, signage lining the observation deck identifying points of interest on the London horizon. Despite trivia designed to capture the magnitude of the dome’s physique (did you know it can hold 18,000 double-decker buses?) it’s easy to elude vertigo. There is no precipice; no dramatic drop to hang your toes over. My inability to see the ground actually worked to my advantage, with the possibility of plunging to my death non-existent.
Resting on my laurels was short-lived, as another anxious group brought up the rear. I began the slightly more difficult descent down the dome’s other side, gravity in this instance being my foe rather than my friend. Back safely on land we discovered videos that surreptitiously captured our auspicious ascent, and the promise of other spectacular adventures in a city that can still excite a bona fide thrill-seeker like me.
£22 on Monday to Friday
£28 on Saturday and Sunday
Duration: 90 minutes (includes safety debriefing, suiting up, climb, and descent)
Climbs take place every 20 minutes.
12:00 to 18:20*
10:00 to 18:20*
An ‘Up at the O2′ app is available for most smartphones
A safety waiver must be signed before participating.
Wheelchair climbs are available.
O2 staff reserve the right to perform a breathalyzer test on those they suspect are under the influence of alcohol.