A man bored of London is bored of Life

London Eye

For me this has to be one of, if not the, best tourist attraction in London, maybe even one of the great tourist attraction in the world. I absolutely love it. In the years since they erected the London Eye not one has passed by that I have not taken a flight on the Eye. As of today I have been on board 27 times, and the best thing about the London Eye is that not once has it failed to impress me, or even better, failed to show me something new. The real advantage for the London Eye is that it has London as it show piece.

I will never forget the months and weeks before the Eye was opened. The story of the erection, the engineering challenges, the PR stunts and counter stunts, and simply just seeing the size of the thing was all really amazing. And now all these years later and it still sits there, as impressive as ever, soaring over the greatest city on earth.

When the London Eye was first created, invented, or whatever the correct phrase is, it needed money, like all things, because it was something good for the city, it needed private money because the state could not pay for it. So it went out to the highest private sponsorship bidder. That turned out to be British Airways, and so the BA London Eye was born and paid for. However others were less impressed, mainly the publicity shy Virgin Atlantic. But because of their rivalry, and Virgin flair for PR, it did mean that London would get to see one of the best PR stunts of all time.

Back when the Eye was being built it lay on the Thames, on its side and was put together like a giant Meccano piece. The idea was to build it on the water then lift it into place when the whole wheel was secure. Lifting this giant steel structure was always going to be amazingly difficult. A number of giant lift cranes were to be used and the Eye was to be lifted, very slowly, over a few days. However very quickly it was recognised that there was a problem. With the Eye just a few feet out of the water, lifting has to stop. Getting it fully lifted up was going to be a real challenge. However the wags at the PR department of a certain rival airline saw their opportunity. One morning flying over the Thames and across  London was a small plane with an advertising tail out the back, The message read, “BA can’t get it up!”. An excellent bit of one-upmanship.

However thankfully they did, get it up, and today millions of people has taken a flight on the London Eye, and seen all London has to offer. The London Eye (Millennium Wheel) at a height of 135 metres (443 ft), is the biggest Ferris wheel in Europe, and has become the most popular paid tourist attraction in the United Kingdom, visited by over 3 million people a year.

At the time it was erected it was the tallest Ferris wheel in the world, until it was surpassed by the Star of Nanchang (160m) in May 2006, and then the Singapore Flyer (165m) on February 11, 2008. However, it is still described by its operators as "the world's tallest cantilevered observation wheel" (because the entire structure is supported by an A-frame on one side only). The London Eye is located at the western end of Jubilee Gardens, on the South Bank of the River Thames in London, United Kingdom, between Westminster Bridge and Hungerford Bridge.

Designed by architects David Marks, Julia Barfield, Malcolm Cook, Mark Sparrowhawk, Steven Chilton and Nic Bailey, the wheel carries 32 sealed and air-conditioned passenger capsules attached to its external circumference. Each capsule holds approximately 25 people, who are free to walk around inside the capsule, though seating is also provided. It rotates at 26 cm (10 in) per second (about 0.9 km/h (0.5mph) so that one revolution takes about 30 minutes. The wheel does not usually stop to take on passengers: the rotation rate is so slow that they can easily walk on and off the moving capsules at ground level. It is, however, stopped to allow disabled or elderly passengers time to embark and disembark safely.


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© 2008 Paul Kavanagh. All rights reserved.