Mike Rowbottom
Mike RowbottomFrom Saturday, the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London will open to the public 24 hours a day - a swift and enduring legacy of the London 2012 Games.

"No one has achieved what we have achieved by opening as quickly as this with venues open to the public," said Dennis Hone, chief executive of the London Legacy Development Corporation. "You've heard the horror stories from Athens and even Sydney who were still working on the legacy long after the Games. In Beijing there's a huge concrete concourse between the venues and the Bird's Nest stadium is open for tourists but not much else...

"My message to families this Easter holidays is 'come on down'. You can do sports activities, fly a kite, walk the dog or have a picnic."

Before and after the London 2012 Games, the aptly named Hone has sharpened the ideas and aspirations of providing the capital, and the wider world, with a real legacy of the great quadrennial travelling show.

So come on down. Or, bearing in mind the towering centrepiece of the reformed Park, the ArcelorMittal Orbit, come on up.

The ArcelorMittal Orbit, centrepiece of the redesigned London Olympic Park ©Getty ImagesThe ArcelorMittal Orbit, centrepiece of the redesigned London Olympic Park ©Getty Images

Has it happened yet, I wonder? Has the outrage and scorn surrounding this towering paradox of iron - "This structure seemingly works against itself - it looks like something that would not want to stand up," designer Anish Kapoor has said -  softened into acceptance, even affection?

Fittingly, the model of the twisting, asymmetric spiral of iron was unveiled in the equally warped setting of City Hall in 2010 in the, yes, slightly warped presence of the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson.

The Mayor expressed the hope that the 115-metres high steel construction would become a landmark to rival the Eiffel Tower, or the Statue of Liberty, which it exceeds in height by 25 metres.

Johnson acknowledged that the design by Turner Prize-winning artist Kapoor and Cecil Balmond, realised with £16 million ($26 million/€19 million) of steel supplied by industrial magnate Lakshmi Mittal and a balance of £3.1 million ($5 million/€3.7 million) supplied by the Greater London Authority, would suggest a variety of images to onlookers.

Boris Johnson, left, just a tad perplexed on the day when the controversial winning design for the Olympic Park centrepiece was revealed ©Getty ImagesBoris Johnson, left, just a tad perplexed on the day when the controversial winning design for the Olympic Park centrepiece was revealed ©Getty Images

"Some may choose to think of it as a Colossus of Stratford," Johnson said, his eye roving over the assembled throng, as was his wont, like that of an old-time music-hall artist.

"Some eyes may detect a giant treble clef, a helter-skelter, a supersized mutant trombone. Some may even see the world's biggest ever representation of a shisha pipe and call it the Hubble Bubble. But I know it is the ArcelorMittal Orbit and it represents the dynamism of a city coming out of recession, the embodiment of the cross-fertilisation of cultures and styles that makes London the world capital of arts and culture."

Johnson added that the tower would help turn Stratford into "a place of destination, a must-see site on the itinerary".

He went on: "I know people will say we are nuts, being in the depth of a recession, to be building Britain's biggest ever piece of public art.

"It is the embodiment of the multicultural style that makes London the capital of the creative world.

"I believe it will be a magnificent addition to the Olympic Park."

Even before it was completed, the ArcelorMittel was being described as a collision between two cranes, or as the Godzilla of public art. Or as the ET tower. Or as the Eiffel Tower after a nuclear attack.

Particularly interesting, that last one, given the implicit compliment to the structure designed by Gustave Eiffel for the 1889 World's Fair in Paris.

Let's just recall a little of the reaction to this engineer's vision of beauty. Originally, Eiffel wanted to build his tower in Barcelona to mark the Universal Exposition of 1888. But the inhabitants of Barcelona's city hall thought it would be a strange and incongruous monstrosity.

The Eiffel Tower. People seem to like it now. ©AFP/Getty ImagesThe Eiffel Tower. People seem to like it now. ©AFP/Getty Images

So Eiffel transferred his project to home ground - where it was widely denounced as an eyesore.

One letter published in a French newspaper deplored the prospect of looking out over Paris and seeing "stretching out like a black blot the odious shadow of the odious column built up of riveted iron plates".

The signatories included writers Alexandre Dumas and Guy de Maupassant, although the latter was later spotted dining regularly at the odious column's highly reputed restaurant. Asked why he was there, considering his objections to the tower, he replied that it was the one place in Paris where one could not see it.

Others described the tower as "a black and gigantic factory chimney", "a lighthouse, a nail, a chandelier" and a "funnel planted on its fat butt".

I was in Paris last month, and walked between the supporting legs of this iconic structure. If it was a factory chimney, it was a factory chimney in heavy demand.

"I believe that the Tower will have its own beauty," Eiffel declared in defence of his construction. "The first principle of architectural beauty is that the essential lines of a construction be determined by a perfect appropriateness to its use. What was the main obstacle I had to overcome in designing the tower? Its resistance to wind. And I submit that the curves of its four piers as produced by our calculations, rising from an enormous base and narrowing toward the top, will give a great impression of strength and beauty."

Can the Orbit, likewise, lay claim to its own peculiar beauty? The answer will soon become plain in the most obvious of terms. Tickets are on sale from £7 ($12/€8) for children and £15 ($25/€18) for adults. Money will talk.

Mike Rowbottom, one of Britain's most talented sportswriters, covered the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics as chief feature writer for insidethegames, having covered the previous five summer Games, and four winter Games, for The Independent. He has worked for the Daily Mail, The Times, The Observer, The Sunday Correspondent and The Guardian. His latest book Foul Play – the Dark Arts of Cheating in Sport (Bloomsbury £12.99) is available at the insidethegames.biz shop. To follow him on Twitter click here.