Take another journey
Lakshmi Mittal, Chairman and CEO of steel group ArcelorMittal, made the ArcelorMittal Orbit a reality through his company funding £19.6m to build this new London landmark. He tells us why
How did you get involved in the project to build the ArcelorMittal Orbit?
I was turning in the cloakroom at Davos [at the World Economic Forum Summit] and [London Mayor] Boris Johnson patted my back and said: “Hello Lakshmi, how are you?” We chatted about London and then he asked whether ArcelorMittal would be interested in participating in the Olympic Games. It was a very casual comment and I asked him: “In what way?” He said: “Would you like to supply some steel?” I said: “Sure, we would love to supply some steel,” and our discussion led to building this iconic structure. Participating in building something for the Olympic Games that was unique and could be made from our own steel appealed to me.
A competition was launched to find the best design for an Olympic sculpture. How much interest did the competition receive?
I was very pleased that when we thought of this idea, there were lots of participants. Up to 50 artists participated in the contest. There was a shortlist of three and finally the judges chose Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond.
What do you think of the winning design?
Clearly, it has been chosen based on its beauty, skill and its innovation. It is a great piece of engineering too.
How do you think the ArcelorMittal Orbit will contribute to the legacy of London 2012?
I think the ArcelorMittal Orbit will be remembered as one of London’s most iconic structures. It is not just part of the Olympic Games, it will always remain in London. People will be able to visit this sculpture and host different events there. That area of east London will get developed because of this sculpture – this is what we believe.
Now that the ArcelorMittal Orbit is a reality, how does it compare to the expectations you had when you first agreed to get involved?
When Boris and I started our discussion, I never expected that this would become such a big project. I started with supplying some steel and doing something for the Olympic Games, but I’m really excited that it has finally turned out to be such a beautiful piece and at the same time it has become such a big project. The ArcelorMittal Orbit will require almost 2,000 tonnes of steel from ArcelorMittal and it is a unique piece of engineering. It is a continual loop, which is a very modern and bold piece of art. I really love it and every time we discuss this project internally, it really excites the whole organisation. I believe that the ArcelorMittal Orbit will always be remembered as part of the Olympic Games.
ArcelorMittal has contributed £19.6m towards the cost of building the ArcelorMittal Orbit. What led you to fund this project?
I’ve been living in London since 1997 and I think it’s a wonderful city. ArcelorMittal has always participated in various activities as part its corporate responsibility programme around the world. In London last year we sponsored the summer exhibition at the British Museum. We also sponsored the London Design Festival. In the same way, this is part of our giving to London. Finally, ArcelorMittal has operations in 60 countries around the globe, so we are perfectly positioned to sponsor the world’s greatest international sporting event. Our purpose is to produce steel. Steel is used in so many aspects of life: the cars we drive, the houses we live in and the stadiums being constructed for London 2012. Building a huge steel structure to celebrate the London 2012 Olympic & Paralympic Games is a great opportunity for ArcelorMittal to showcase the unique qualities of steel and its critical role in the world’s infrastructure.
What has your experience of being part of the ArcelorMittal Orbit project been like?
I’ve been very excited about this whole project right from the beginning. It has been a great experience interacting with various artists and having discussions with the various authorities, like LOCOG [London Organising Committee of the Olympic & Paralympic Games], ODA [Olympic Delivery Authority], LLDC [London Legacy Development Corporation] and the Mayor’s office. I think we have received tremendous support and cooperation from all the authorities involved in this project. I’m confident that this will turn out to be the most iconic sculpture that any Olympics could ever have.