"A metallic red phallic symbol of Boris Johnson’s egotistical failure"
How much would you pay for a slide? If you’re the mayor of London it appears the answer is as much as £3.5m – assuming you’re buying it with taxpayer’s money of course.
The slide in question is the 114m helter-skelter proposed to be strapped to the side of the Orbit Tower on the Olympic Park. The slide comes as the latest attempt by the mayor to make the Orbit Tower, an 11th hour addition to the park Boris Johnson insisted on, break even.
Currently the Orbit is losing around £10,000 a week in operating costs, with visitor number estimates slashed from 350,000 a year to only 150,000. Last year, in only its second year of operation, the tower saw only 123,000 visitors, less than half the original target.
The result is all too obvious. Instead of making money to help pay back the £10.6m of debt we owe on the project, the Orbit is losing money fast.
Like a scene from The Thick of It, the mayor’s answer to an expensive vanity project losing the public money isn’t to cut his losses. It’s to plough more money into the scheme and put up a slide.
Not only will it cost a cool £3.5m to install but it will inevitably add to the core operating costs, sending the tower’s costs even further into orbit.
The price-tag also means that if the LLDC go ahead with the £5 ticket price that they’re suggesting, they’d need to attract 700,000 slide-riders just to break even. That’s far more visitors than the sculpture is currently getting and almost five times their optimistic estimates.
The additional £5 ticket cost for the slide comes on top of the Orbit’s current £12 admission charge making the whole £17 package beyond the reach of many London families.
There’s a lot of competition but the Orbit is quickly taking on the mantle of one of Boris’ greatest follies, gobbling up taxpayer money without any discernible purpose.
People could be forgiven for thinking they were promised a great value Olympic Legacy for their investment, not a metallic red phallic symbol of Boris Johnson’s egotistical failure.
Think what a difference £3.5m could make to the dwindling sporting legacy from the Games. Whilst the slide is a fun idea, I just can’t help but think there are far better uses this taxpayer money could be put to.
Andrew Dismore AM is the Labour London Assembly member for Barnet and Camden
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