Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
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, north of Westminster Bridge. 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.
Designed by architects David Marks and Julia Barfield , the wheel carries 32 sealed, air conditioned, passenger capsules attached to its external circumference. It rotates slowly (at a rate of about 1.6 km/h or 1 mph) so that a complete revolution takes about 30 minutes to complete. The wheel does not usually stop to take on passengers; its rotation 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 commisioned 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 170m wheel on the Las Vegas Strip and a 200m wheel in Shanghai. (By comparison, the original 1893 Ferris wheel was 75m high).
Ownership of the Eye is divided between British Airways with 33 percent, the Tussauds Group and its creators.
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.
Nearest rail and tube stations
- Westminster tube station (Jubilee, District, Circle lines)
- Waterloo station (Waterloo & City, Bakerloo, Jubilee, Northern lines)
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