Olympic Stadium tower ripped by London critics

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Olympic Stadium tower ripped by London critics

From Comcast SportsNet

LONDON (AP) Critics say it looks like a roller coaster gone badly awry. Fans say it's a landmark to rival the Eiffel Tower.

London got a towering new venue Friday, as authorities announced completion of the Orbit, a 115-meter (377- foot) looped and twisting steel tower beside London's new Olympic Stadium that will give visitors panoramic views over the city.

Some critics have called the ruby-red lattice of tubular steel an eyesore. British tabloids have labeled it ''the Eye-ful Tower,'' ''the Godzilla of public art'' and worse.

But artist Anish Kapoor and engineer Cecil Balmond, who designed the tower, find it beautiful.

Belmond, who described the looping structure as ''a curve in space,'' said he thought people would be won over by it.

''St. Paul's (Cathedral) was hated when it was begun,'' he said. ''Everyone wanted a spire'' - but now the great church's dome is universally loved.

He said if a groundbreaking structure works ''it starts to do something to you and your concept of beauty changes.''

Kapoor noted that Paris's iconic Eiffel Tower was considered ''the most tremendously ugly object'' by many when it was first built.

''There will be those who love it and those who hate it, and that's OK,'' Kapoor said of the tower, whose full name is the ArcelorMittal Orbit, after the steel company that stumped up most of the 22.7 million pound (36.5 million) cost.

''I think it's awkward,'' Kapoor said - considering that a compliment. ''It has its elbows sticking out in a way. ... It refuses to be an emblem.''

A little awkwardness is to be expected when you ask an artist to design a building. Kapoor, a past winner of art's prestigious Turner Prize, is known for large-scale installations like ''Marsyas'' - a giant blood-red PVC membrane that was displayed at London's Tate Modern in 2002 - and ''The Bean,'' a 110-ton (100-metric ton) stainless steel sculpture in Chicago's Millennium Park.

Even for him, though, the scale of the Orbit is monumental.

He says the structure can only truly be appreciated from inside - something most of the public will not have the chance to do until 2014, when it reopens as the centerpiece of a brand-new park on the site of the 2012 London Olympic Park.

Before that, it will be open to ticketholders for this summer's Olympic and Paralympic Games, whop can ride the elevator to the top at a cost of 15 pounds (22).

Kapoor said visitors would enter a ''dark and heavy'' steel canopy at base before emerging into the light high above ground, where a wraparound viewing deck and a pair of huge concave mirrors create ''a kind of observatory, looking out at London.''

''It's as if one is in an instrument for looking,'' Kapoor said.

London Olympic organizers hope the Orbit, which can accommodate up to 5,000 visitors a day, will become a major tourist attraction.

It is, they note proudly, the tallest sculpture in Europe - and 22 meters (72 feet) higher than the Statue of Liberty. On a clear day, views from its observation deck extend for 32 kilometers (20 miles) across London and the green hills beyond.

The tower will be at the heart of a new 227-hectare (560-acre) park, the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, that will include a lush river valley, biking trails and a tree-lined promenade. It is due to open in stages starting in July 2013 and finishing in early 2014.

London Mayor Boris Johnson takes credit for pitching the idea of a tower to steel baron Lakshmi Mittal at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland in 2009. He is a huge fan of the finished product.

''It is a genuine Kapoor,'' Johnson said. ''It has all the enigmatic qualities of some of his great pieces.''

And he believes other Londoners will come to love it, too.

''I think so,'' he said, then paused. ''In the end.''

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John Wall on Wizards' search for a backup point guard, whether he will recruit free agents

John Wall on Wizards' search for a backup point guard, whether he will recruit free agents

Each time John Wall and the Wizards have made the playoffs, they have advanced past the first round and fallen in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Each time they were competitive enough in those second round series - against the Pacers, Hawks and Celtics - to have many thinking bigger, about a chance to meet LeBron James in the conference finals. Yet each time they were ultimately defeated over the course of a long and hard-fought series.

Wall believes he knows why they fell short each time. He thinks there is a common theme to all of those series that the Wizards must address this offseason.

"We need to help our bench," Wall told CSN's Chris Miller. "Just to be honest, that was our downfall in each series that we had in the [Eastern Conference] semifinals, our bench got out played."

For anyone who has watched the Wall-led Wizards over the years, it's not hard to decipher exactly what he was talking about. For years the Wizards have searched for a competent backup to Wall at the guard position and the same could be said about the roster behind his backcourt teammate Bradley Beal this past season. As a result, Wall was asked to play 44 minutes in Game 7 and Beal played 46, respectively.

Even with their season on the line, that is not preferred. Celtics guard Marcus Smart even said publicly that he thought it led to a dropoff in Wall's game.

[RELATED: Wizards hope to sign Wall to contract extension]

The Wizards' quest for help behind Wall took several different turns over the last calendar year. They tried to address the position by bringing Tomas Satoransky over from Europe and trading for Trey Burke last summer. Both were inconsistent through the first half of the season, so they signed Brandon Jennings as a free agent once he was waived by the Knicks. Jennings showed flashes and did some things right, like continue to push the pace when Wall was off the floor. But even Jennings admits he didn't play well against Boston.

Back in the 2013-14 season, the first time Wall made the playoffs, the original plan for his backup was Eric Maynor. That didn't work out, so they traded for veteran Andre Miller in February. The following season, with Miller not working out, they shipped him out for Ramon Sessions, also at the trade deadline.

Now, here the Wizards are, once again trying to find a solution at backup point guard. Wall continues to remain patient, knowing it's not as easy as it looks.

"Every point guard that we have, you can't expect them to go out there and do what I do. Every guy that has backed me up has done a great job, in my opinion. It might not help us as much as everybody thinks, but that's up to the front office to make the adjustment there," he said.

The Wizards have several options to pursue Wall's backup. They could promote from within and expand Satoransky's role. They can use their lone draft pick, a second round selection at 52nd overall. They could try to orchestrate another trade. Or, they could go the free agent route, though depending on what happens to restricted free agents like Otto Porter and Bojan Bogdanovic, their money could be limited.

[RELATED: Top free agent point guards who could help Wizards, Wall]

If it is free agency, don't expect Wall to play an active role in the recruitment pitch.

"I don't think I have to do that. They understand and see what we do as a team over here: how we play together, how we move the ball. I think guys will just come if they want to come," Wall said.

Wall knows the Wizards need help, but believes they are very close to where they want to go.

"We have our main core guys. I think adding a couple little pieces here and there will help us get over the hump," he said. "Even with all that, we still feel like we had a chance by getting to a Game 7. We had a 50-50 chance of getting to the Eastern Conference Finals. We were one game away. We couldn't ask for more."

For more on the Wizards' offseason, listen to the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast:

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20 offseason Caps questions: What direction should the Caps take this summer?

20 offseason Caps questions: What direction should the Caps take this summer?

Another playoff disappointment—as well as a host of expiring player contracts—has left the Capitals with a ton of questions to answer this offseason. Over the next month, Jill Sorenson, JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir will take a close look at the 20 biggest issues facing the team as the business of hockey kicks into high gear.     

Today’s question: Another year, another early playoff exit. The Capitals earned the Presidents’ Trophy this season despite playing in the toughest division in the NHL, but once again they could not get past the second round. In the Alex Ovechkin era, the Caps have won three Presidents’ Trophies and reached the postseason nine times and yet, they have never made it to the conference final. Now with Alex Ovechkin set to turn 32 before the start of next season, an aging core with no playoff success to speak of and several expiring contracts, the team looks like it may have reached a crossroads.

After another postseason flameout, what direction should the Caps take?

Sorenson: In one word: Build.  For me, I have to look at the organization which the Capitals have been trying to best for quite some time now, the Pittsburgh Penguins.  I think the biggest difference on the ice between the two teams recently has been depth.  Last offseason, the Caps added to the depth of their bottom six, but that wasn’t enough this postseason.  That’s because the Penguins were able to draw on forwards from Wilkes-Barre throughout the season and playoffs to push them over the edge.  It was constantly next man up, and their supposedly unknown forwards and defensemen constantly stepped up, both in the regular season and especially in the playoffs.  I think the Capitals need to keep their core, and build around players like Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Braden Holtby, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Jay Beagle, Lars Eller, Matt Niskanen, Dmitry Orlov, John Carlson, and Brooks Orpik.  Keep the supporting players around them (Nate Schmidt, Andre Burakovsky, etc.) but they have to find a way to build up their foundation in Hershey as well.  They need to find a way to package some players and prospects to get equal players and upgrade their prospects.  As Kuznetsov so aptly put it on breakdown day, “You can’t build big building without underneath, right?”

RELATED: What's next for the Caps? No one seems to agree

Regan: It’s tempting right now to say they should tear it all down and start over, but let’s not let emotions take over. The Caps are not the Vancouver Canucks who are terrible and yet refuse to trade the Sedin twins and start over because of a misguided sense of loyalty. They are not the Detroit Red Wings who held onto a rapidly declining core in the hopes of maintaining their postseason streak as long as possible. The Caps have won the Presidents’ Trophy for two straight seasons. A complete rebuild at this point would be premature. Will their roster be as good as in 2016-17? Probably not, but that does not mean they have no chance of winning the Cup. Having said that, however, they cannot afford to simply bring back the same team and try again. Part of the problem in Washington is clearly mental and if you return much the same roster, the players will have no confidence that things will be any different. Shake things up with a major trade. Trade away a part of the core, a big name player to jolt the team. Even if it is just a one for one trade, look at what trading Shea Weber for P.K. Subban has done for Nashville. If the core is rotten, shake it up.

El-Bashir: Let’s begin with the notion that blowing up a roster that’s earned more points than anyone else the past two seasons is a good idea. It’s not. But let me also be clear about this: the time for nibbling around the edges has passed. The Caps need more youth, more speed and, perhaps, a little more pushback, too. As the roster stands now, Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Braden Holtby, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Matt Niskanen are all under contract or under team control. If GM Brian MacLellan can shoehorn T.J. Oshie back in the fold, that’s a solid start. Add to that foundation a couple of impactful players—a top-six forward and a top-four defender—and the Caps will have made some substantive changes without resorting to a full teardown. It’ll be a challenge, no doubt. After Mac re-signs his restricted free agents (and possibly Oshie) there won’t be much cap space with which to work. Also, he’s got no draft picks until the fourth round and the free agent market doesn’t look all that appealing. So how can he do it? By taking a page out of David Poile’s playbook and swinging a big trade (or perhaps two). Poile retooled the Western Conference champion Nashville Predators on the fly with a couple of bold deals, acquiring Ryan Johansen for Seth Jones and P.K. Subban for Shea Weber. The trade route is a risky one and, of course, it costs a good player to get a good player so a fan favorite and/or up-and-comer would be headed the other way. But it’s the only way I can see the Caps propping the window back open for another run with the current core. I also see it as the Caps' best option.

MORE CAPITALS: Caps release key offseason dates