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London Eye

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The London Eye seen from Westminster Bridge
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The London Eye seen from Westminster Bridge
The London Eye at night
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The London Eye at night
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Capsules at the top of the wheel
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The Eye seen above Westminster Bridge
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Under the Eye

The London Eye, sometimes called the Millennium Wheel, is the largest observation wheel in the world (though often erroneously called a Ferris wheel), and has been since its opening at the end of 1999. It stands 135 metres (443 feet) high on the western end of Jubilee Gardens, on the South Bank of the River Thames in Lambeth, London, England, between Westminster and Hungerford Bridges. It is adjacent to London's County Hall, and stands opposite the offices of the Ministry of Defence situated in Westminster which it overlooks to the west.

Contents

History

Designed by architects David Marks and Julia Barfield, the wheel carries 32 sealed, air conditioned, passenger capsules attached to its external circumference. It rotates at a rate of 0.26 metres per second (about 0.9 km/h or 0.6 mph) so that a complete revolution takes about 30 minutes to complete. The wheel does not usually stop to take on passengers; the rotation rate is so slow that passengers can easily walk on and off the moving capsules at ground level. It is, however, stopped on occasion to allow disabled or elderly passengers time to alight safely. Structurally the Eye resembles a huge spoked bicycle wheel, and was depicted as such in a poster advertising a charity cycle race.

The wheel was constructed in sections which were floated up the river Thames on barges and assembled lying flat on pontoons. Once the wheel was complete it was raised into its upright position by cranes. The wheel was initially lifted at a rate of about 2 degrees per hour until it reached 65 degrees, where it stayed for a week while engineers prepared for the second phase of the lift.

The Eye was opened by British Prime Minister Tony Blair on December 31, 1999, although it was not actually opened to the public until March 2000 because of technical problems. Since its opening, the Eye, operated by Tussauds Group but sponsored by British Airways, has become a major landmark and tourist attraction. Recently, The London Eye was voted the world's best tourist attraction in a poll commissioned by the snack company Pringles.

The Eye enjoyed a warmer reception from the British public upon its opening than London's other significant Millennium project, the Dome, although the delay in opening had caused some press scepticism. By July 2002 around 8.5 million people had 'flown' the eye. It originally had planning permission only for five years, but at that time Lambeth Council agreed plans to make the attraction permanent.

Although the Eye is currently listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the tallest observation wheel in the world, it is unlikely to keep that title for long. Plans have been announced to build a 170 m wheel on the Las Vegas Strip and a 200 m wheel in Shanghai. (By comparison, the original 1893 Ferris wheel was 75 m high).

Ownership of the Eye is divided between British Airways with 33 % , the Tussauds Group and its creators.

Coordinates: Template:Coor dms

Current status

On 19 May 2005 there were reports of a leaked letter showing that the South Bank Centre – owners of part of the land on which the struts of the eye are located – served a notice to quit on the attraction along with a demand for an increase in rent from 65,000 per year to 2.5 million, which the operators have rejected as unaffordable. [1] (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/4564115.stm) Some news reports suggested that if the Eye were evicted it might be re-erected in another part of London, such as Hyde Park. In the following weeks there were a number of conflicting reports about the future of the London Eye, including rumours of a bid to move the eye to Paris (denied by the French), and reports that the South Bank Centre itself denied ever having made the demands claimed. It was also reported that the uncertainty over the eye might hurt the London bid for the 2012 Olympic games.

On 25 May 2005, London mayor Ken Livingstone vowed that the landmark would remain in London, describing Lord Hollick, the boss of the SBC, as a "complete prat". He also pledged that if the row was not resolved he would use his powers to ask the London Development Agency to issue a compulsary purchase order. [2] (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/4581033.stm)

The land in question is a small part of the Jubilee Gardens, which was given to the SBC for 1 when the Greater London Council was broken up.

Despite its popularity, the London Eye continues to be something of a financial black hole. Its debt stood at more than 150 million by mid-2005, increasing at the rate of 25 million per year. Much of this is due to the costly loans taken out to finance the construction of the Eye, with its operators Tussauds taking 4% of all ticket sales as a "management fee".

Panorama view from the London Eye (very large - ~1Mb)
Enlarge
Panorama view from the London Eye (very large - ~1Mb)

The London Eye in film and television

Because of its prominence on the skyline, the London Eye is often used as part of an "establishing" shot to place the viewers in modern-day London.

  • It featured (as a subtle joke) in the movie A Knight's Tale in a portion of the movie which takes place in the London of the Middle Ages.
  • It features as a central element in the storyline of the episode Rose in the 2005 season of Doctor Who.
  • In 2005, it was used on the reality show The Amazing Race, in which teams had to go to the top of the London Eye to search for a location with the help of binoculars.

See also

Nearest rail and tube stations

National Rail

London Underground

External links


de:London Eye fr:Millenium Wheel nl:London Eye he:לונדון איי pl:London Eye

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