Open for business: Boris Johnson officially opens Shard's observation deck to public


Click to follow
The Independent Online

Amidst the same appalling weather and poor visibility that has hung over each of The Shard’s many grand openings, Boris Johnson has officially opened the observation deck at Western Europe’s tallest building to the public.

Cutting a ribbon 244 metres above London’s seemingly permanently wet pavements, the Mayor was joined in the greying gloom by the building’s architect Renzo Piano, who claimed The Shard, which continues to divide opinion just as fiercely as it divides the London skyline, is “magic for a number of reasons.”

"First, because it's in London, second, because it's so tall, and third, because this building is a part of London. It's a sense of London.

"It's sad when London is sad, it's joyful when London is brilliant and joyful."

Mr Johnson described the building as "a most amazing place".

He said: "I don't think there's anything in London like this.

"It's the closest thing to being in an airplane and looking down on London. But you can walk around, you've got complete stability.

"You can see all the bends in the river, you can see my office, you can see Buckingham Palace, you can see the whole thing for 40 miles around."

Shortly after Mr Johnson had cut the ribbon, there were celebrations of a different kind as a man proposed to his girlfriend from the observation deck.

When James Episcopou, 22, got down on one knee the moment was captured by a host of photographers.

Mr Episcopou, a supervisor at John Lewis, said: "I've had it planned since July last year. When tickets first came out I thought I've got to buy them, it's the perfect place to propose.

"Laura means everything to me and I wanted to make her feel on top of the world.

"We had no idea the media were going to be there, but when we arrived we saw Boris Johnson and there were cameras everywhere."

It is certainly true that it is the first ‘public’ viewing gallery over London. All its other similar vantage points are ensconced in expensive bars and restaurants, and considerably lower down. That said, a couple of gin and tonics, at say, Galvin at Windows, on the roof of the Park Lane Hilton won’t set you back much more than the Shard’s £24.95 ticket price (£18.95 for children), which is significantly more than the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building, and every other comparable attraction anywhere in the world.

But that hasn’t stopped the 4,800 people who have paid admission for today. The decks are sold out for the next several weeks.

On a clear day, visitors will be able to enjoy a 360-degree view of the capital's skyline, from a platform almost twice the height of any other in the city.

With the help of specially-designed telescopes, they should be able to pick out London's landmarks in the streets below.

Visitors to the attraction - on floors 68, 69 and 72 - are whisked up in two high-speed lifts in around 60 seconds.