Olympic legacy boss Daniel Moylan battles to keep park gates open to public

There are fears that a prolonged closure would cause the post-Games afterglow to fade

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The Independent Online

The ArcelorMittal Orbit sculpture may be kept open to visitors after the end of the Paralympic Games to sate the public's appetite for all things Olympic, The Independent can disclose. The 377ft public artwork had been due to shut its doors for 18 months as the entire Olympic Park is closed for redevelopment.

But legacy officials fear that a prolonged closure would cause the post-Games "afterglow" to fade, so are now looking at ways of continuing to welcome visitors.

"We plan to have access to the Orbit," said Daniel Moylan, the chair of the London Legacy Development Corporation. "It would be by bus, and you would have to pre-book, as it will be a building site. But I think it would be tremendously advantageous if we could get local people in, partly because it would be an interesting experience, and partly because they would get a good view of what is going on. They'd see that there really is activity behind the hoardings."

Mr Moylan did not given an indication of ticket prices but said the organisation would seek to "cover its cost" by operating the scheme, School groups would also be invited for free.

The sculpture was commissioned by London Mayor Boris Johnson to "arouse the curiosity and wonder" of Londoners. Despite a largely hostile reaction from critics, it become one of the icons of the Games.

"We also want to run bus tours for the site, in much the same way as existed prior to the Games," said Mr Moylan. "There is also a plan to conduct boat trips up and down the canals and rivers inside the park. What you'll actually see, I'm not sure, the level of the water, is below the level of the ground in most cases, but there could be some appeal in that as well."

Mr Moylan said while the transport infrastructure overhaul brought in for the Olympics would always remain:"What we might lose is some of that Olympic afterglow, and we'd like to do everything we can to keep it". He said the Olympics "has generated a sense of confidence, and a fairly positive feeling amongst people. It is shown us we can do things well.

"One hopes some of that positive spirit can be carried forward. But at the same time I expect the Queen Elizabeth Park to be here in one form or another to be here for at least 100 years maybe 200 hundred years. And it's not going to survive and attract visitors just on the memory of what happened at 2012. That is a good kick start but it's got to be a worthwhile and attractive place in itself that people want to come to."

Almost as soon as the Paralympic Closing Ceremony finishes, work begins on an 18-month redevelopment project, that will involve installing biking trails around the Velodrome and the BMX track, and the construction of a large public plaza at the southern end of the park, which could be used for festivals and shows.

Mr Moylan, a Conservative Councillor appointed by Mr Johnson to lead the body, and who came into post six weeks ago, said he had already had discussion with the Royal Opera House and the Royal Ballet about performing there.

He said the park's success would not be measured in "terms of sheer visitor numbers, or the number of international tourists", but by whether people "enjoyed their time there."

In October, the LLDC is scheduled to announce which of the four listed bidders for long term tenancy of the stadium will take it over. West Ham Football Club remain the most likely of the four, the others are Leyton Orient Football Club, a Formula One racing consortium, and a bid from the University College of Football Business.