London Eye, the giant observation wheel has become a London icon since it was opened on the South Bank in 2000. It is located next to Jubilee Gardens and County Hall. With unparalleled views of London, the Millennium Wheel has proved a major tourist attraction, but it was a controversial addition to the city's skyline.
More than 15 millions people have traveled in the giant wheel, with its 135m high, it has 32 glass capsules attached to its external circumference which holds 25 people each of one, in addition it provides 30 minute of slow-moving “flight” over London. This attraction built by the British Airways began like part of city celebrations for the arrival of the New Millennium. For its construction, a floating crane was installed in eight platforms to raise the gigantic hoop of the wheel.
The most of their occupants are tourists, but there are pairs whom rent for special occasions like Valentine’s Day, when also chocolates and champagne are offered. Also there is who are arranged to pay more of US$3.000 to accept in one of the capsules in front of a London judge.
In spite of the initial critics of those who considered that the wheel goes off key with its classic environs, the initial license by five years already was extended by two decades more. London Eye heads the list of ten more popular private monuments in the city.
Designed by architects David Marks and Julia Barfield, the London Eye reflect the elements of air, water, earth and time – the central theme is a circle of white light from within the rim which sweeps the skyline at 135m. Each capsule allows to people walking free around inside the capsule, though seating is also provided. It rotates at 26cm per second so that one revolution takes about 30 minutes. The rim of the Eye is supported by tie rods and resembles a huge spooked bicycle wheel. The total weight is 1,700 tones. The project was truly European with major components coming from six countries, the steel from UK, the cables came from Italy, the bearings came from Germany, the spindle and hub were cast in the Czech Republic, the capsules from France and the glass for these came from Italy, and the electrical components from the UK.
Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, opened formally the London Eye at 20:00 GMT on December 31, 1999, although by technical problems, it was not opened to the public until March 2000. Since opening the Millennium Wheel has become in a symbol of modern Britain and the UK’s most popular paid for visitor attraction.
The London Eye, a breathtaking feat of design and engineering, is the vision of David Marks and Julia Barfield, an architect team. The wheel design was used as a metaphor of the turning of the century.
On July, 2002, around 8.5 million people had ridden the Eye. Initially the permission was only for five years, but at that time Lambeth Council agreed to plans to make the attraction permanent.
Since 2005, the Millennium Wheel has been the focal point of London’s New Year celebrations, with 10 minute fireworks displays taking place involving fireworks fired from the wheel itself.
In 2008 it was announced that 30 million had ridden the London Eye since its opening in March 2000. British Airways was the main sponsor of the London Eye until February 2008 and up until November 2005 were joint shareholders with Marks Barfield Architects and The Tussauds Group. British Airways also privately funded the London Eye project from the early stages of conception.
The London Eye is now operated by the London Eye Company Limited, a Merlin Entertainments Group Company.