Rhik Samadder tries … abseiling: ‘A family gazes out at me, looking sick on my behalf’

I’m 80 metres up, and my (very) nervous system can’t help but protest. Will I make the jump and take advantage of this terrifying privilege?

I’m standing on the wrong side of the viewing platform glass at the top of ArcelorMittal Orbit in Stratford, east London. The standing area here at the UK’s largest freefall abseil is narrow, and feels like the crow’s nest of a ship. The sunny day has clouded over. It’s gusty, 80 metres (262ft) in the air. Two wind-buffeted safety crew, Sian and Jack, hook me to ropes. My life is in their hands, and I don’t even know their surnames. Looking out over the head-spinning edge, I feel afraid. In a few seconds I’ll be descending unsupported but for a rope, from almost the height of the Statue of Liberty. To give me “my full Zen moment” I won’t have an instructor with me. I’ll be alone.

The building itself lends a trippy, out-of-your-head element to this. Sir Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond’s sculptural oddity looks like a tentacle enveloping a can of Spam, or a pulled-apart Slinky. Does Kapoor know thrill-seekers are walking all over it from the outside? Is this what he wanted? I didn’t know people were allowed to do this, and wish they weren’t so I wouldn’t have to. It feels like tempting fate. What kind of people do this? And why?

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