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Chance to build a Mittal Monument in London

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By AMIT ROY in London
  • Published 25.10.09
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London, Oct. 25: To the many iconic buildings of Indian interest in London — from Big Ben to the Tower of London, London Eye and Selfridges — may be added a new one: the Mittal Monument.

The planning is in the early stages but the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, wants to leave behind an architectural legacy to celebrate the 2012 Olympics but one that will inspire awe long after he is gone.

Boris has approached a number of likely sources of income, among whom Lakshmi Mittal is bound to figure as one of the usual suspects though the Indian steel tycoon’s name has not been officially confirmed.

According to a spokesperson for Boris, visitors associate big cities with their iconic buildings — “when people go to Paris, they think of the Eiffel Tower”.

Indian visitors to the UK — and the numbers have escalated to a million a year — like to be photographed in front of Big Ben, see the Koh-i-Noor diamond in the Tower of London, and catch a view of the sprawling city from the slowly revolving Eye. Selfridges, the famous department store in Oxford Street, is traditionally where wives shop till their husbands drop.

The spokesperson would not comment on whether Mittal had been approached but told The Sunday Telegraph, London: “The mayor is keen to see stunning, ambitious, world-class art in the Olympic Park and has been working with the Olympic Delivery Agency over many months to explore a series of commissioning projects. The mayor is also in touch with prominent figures in the art establishment and philanthropists about taking these forward and getting private backing.”

In many ways, it would be in Mittal’s interest to be seen to be doing something for Britain, since he and his family enjoy living in London. But his ArcelorMittal steel empire, though global, does not actually have a plant in the UK.

Boris, it is thought, has sought £15 million for his pet project, though the appeal comes at a time when Mittal is still recovering from the sharp drop in steel prices.

As to what the structure might look like is not known though an artist’s impression, published today by the Sunday Times, “is not what it may be like”, his spokesperson said.

The paper insisted that “the magnificent edifice will be put up in the capital’s Olympic Park in time for the 2012 Games and will be funded by the steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal — Britain’s richest man”.

A panel is said to be considering five shortlisted artists for the commission, among them sculptor Anish Kapoor.

One early design apparently features “a 400ft structure resembling a cross between a pylon and a native American totem pole. It would mirror the 436ft arch above Wembley Stadium on the other side of London”.

The Sunday Telegraph has also run a story with a quote from a source close to Boris: “He wants to build something quite stunning in its ambition, like the Eiffel Tower or the Statue of Liberty — a tribute to London that people will fall in love with.”

There was another quote from “a friend of Mr Mittal, 59”, who informed the paper: “He loves living in London and wants to give something back to the city. The Olympics are obviously a very important event and he wants to be able to contribute to a legacy project that people will be able to enjoy for many years to come.”