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Ultimate Rollercoaster > Discussion Forums > Europe Coasters, Parks & Attractions > 'London sees a spinout for Millennium Wheel'

'London sees a spinout for Millennium Wheel'

Posted: 9/20/99 at 10:46:01 AM
Views: 5240

Today's Boston Globe had an article about the raising (or failure in raising) of the new wheel in London. I'll put it here so you can still read it after they remove it from their site.


London sees a spinout for Millennium Wheel

By Kevin Cullen, Globe Staff, 09/20/99

LONDON - The raising of the world's biggest Ferris wheel on the south bank of the Thames had been meant to herald the new millennium. It has instead offered empirical evidence that those dreaded millennium bugs do exist.

Had all gone to plan, the 443-foot-high Millennium Wheel today would be looking down on Big Ben, its venerable but relatively puny neighbor on the opposite bank. Instead, it is lying supine on eight temporary islands in the Thames, looking more like a giant roulette wheel.

The first attempt to raise the wheel on Sept. 10 was an extravaganza of space-age engineering, an example of high technology at its best, and worst. One of the myriad TV satellite dishes there to capture the feat interfered with the laser beam that had been monitoring the lifting process. After that problem was resolved, one of the anchors that held one of the 30 cables used in the lift came loose, forcing engineers to abandon the effort.

British Airways, which is footing the cost, nearly $50 million, of building the wheel, insists that it was only a temporary setback. Jamie Bowden, a British Airways spokesman, said another attempt to lift the wheel will take place in about three weeks.

''We're pretty certain it will be up for millennium eve,'' Bowden said.

While disappointed, the wheel's backers were not entirely surprised.

''We have said from the beginning, this is a very complicated lift,'' Bowden said. ''This has never been done in the world before. It was a hiccup, a setback, but not the end of the world.''

Tim Renwick, the project director, said that while heavier items have been lifted, never has anyone tried to lift such a heavy structure in such a confined space. The 1,500-ton wheel would pass within 20 inches of the adjacent County Hall.

When complete, the wheel will have 32 egg-shaped capsules that can carry 25 people each. Adults will pay about $12, and children $8, for a ride.

The wheel will turn slowly, taking a half-hour to make a full circle. From the top, weather permitting, one should see for 25 miles. The area would include seven counties, three airports, six racecourses, 36 bridges over the Thames, 13 soccer stadiums, 165 golf courses, and 269 Underground stations.

British Airways announced plans to put up the wheel in 1996, and along with the opening of the city's Millennium Dome, the opening of the wheel in January is supposed to be one of the highlights of London's millennium celebrations.

The wheel is remarkable because London - unlike New York, a city it is often compared to - is a horizontal metropolis, spread out for miles and lacking skys#####ers. At 443 feet, the wheel would be the fourth tallest structure.

Three times as tall as Tower Bridge, it will dwarf most of the city's landmarks. It is more than twice the size of the Riesenrad in Vienna, Europe's biggest and most famous Ferris wheel.

David Marks and Julia Barfield, the husband-and-wife architect team behind the project, call their creation ''an observation wheel.'' When raised, it will rival the observation decks on the Empire State Building and the Eiffel Tower in offering a panoramic view of one of the world's great cities.

The Millennium Wheel, which is also called the London Eye, has permission to stay where it is for only five years. Its builders, however, expect to attract 3 million riders a year and hope that it becomes so popular a tourist attraction that there will be a consensus to leave it where it is. It will be managed by the people who run Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum, a more established tourist haunt.

While aimed primarily at tourists, the Millennium Wheel will offer native Britons a chance to literally look down on their lawmakers across the river at what, from top, will look like very small Houses of Parliament. When they do, some may find it hard to resist mouthing the line that Harry Lime does in the classic film ''The Third Man,'' as he looks down on Vienna from the Riesenrad:

''Seriously old boy, would you really worry if one of those dots stopped moving?''