Workers scale Brussels' Atomium to start cleaning process

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Dangling from ropes as they straddle giant silver spheres that reflect the cityscape below, a team of cleaners began the annual clean-up of Brussels’ iconic Atomium.

Getting ready to celebrate its 60th birthday next year, the celebrated structure consisting of nine polished steel globes, each 18 meters (60 ft) in diameter connected by tubular passageways, represents a crystal of iron. But it has also come to be the symbol of the Belgian and European Union capital.

“When we arrived the first day, at first we enjoyed the view and being there, and then, after that, it’s just a job like any other,” said Olivier Delecosse, leader of the cleaning crew who began work on Monday and will spend the next two weeks on the job.

The team polish from the top to the underside of each sphere in turn. The process usually takes place in summer as the cleaning product cannot be used in the rain. However, the crew are optimistic for a good dry run in often damp Brussels.

“Cleaning the Atomium is always something very special for us,” Delecosse said of the 100-metre (300-ft) high exhibition space, which was built for the World’s Fair of 1958.

“Each one of us, we are proud to do this because this is a symbol of Belgium.”

Reporting by Christian Levaux and Lucasta Bath; Writing by Lily Cusack; Editing by Alastair Macdonald and Susan Fenton