The London Eye is the biggest Ferris wheel in Europe, and one of the largest worldwide. It is truly one of the most incredible wheels in the world. Standing at a height of 135 metres (443 ft), the London Eye has now become the most popular paid tourist attraction in the United Kingdom, visited by over three and a half million people in one year. To put that into perspective, you would need 6,680 fully booked British Airways Boeing 747-400 jumbo jets to move that number of fliers! Here are some interesting facts about London Eye:
Sir Richard Rogers, winner of the 2007 Pritzker Architecture Prize, wrote of the London Eye in a book about the project:
“The Eye has done for London what the Eiffel Tower did for Paris, which is to give it a symbol and to let people climb above the city and look back down on it. Not just specialists or rich people, but everybody. That’s the beauty of it: it is public and accessible, and it is in a great position at the heart of London.”
At the time it was erected the London Eye was the tallest Ferris wheel in the world, until it was surpassed by the Star of Nanchang (160 m) in May 2006, and then the Singapore Flyer on 11 February 2008. The world’s tallest Ferris wheel is the Singapore Flyer, in Singapore. It is 165 metres (541 ft) high. It started rotating on February 11, 2008 and officially opened to the public on March 1, 2008.
The Star of Nanchang, in Nanchang, Jiangxi Province, China, previously held the record. It is 160 metres (520 ft) high and opened for business in May 2006.
The London Eye is still described by its operators as “the world’s tallest cantilevered observation wheel”. It actually took seven years and the supreme talents of hundreds of people from various countries to make it a reality, and from the London Eye, you can see around 40KM (25 miles) from the top as far as Windsor Castle on a clear day. The circumference of the wheel is 424m (1.392ft) – meaning that if it were unravelled, it would be 1.75 times longer than the UK’s tallest building – One Canada Square in Canary Wharf. The total weight of the wheel and capsules is 2,100 tonnes – that is the same weight as 1,272 London black cabs!
The London Eye was formally opened by the Tony Blair who was prime minister at the time, on 31 December 1999. It was however not opened to the public until March 2000 because of technical problems. It is operated by Merlin Entertainments but sponsored by British Airways. One of the most significant facts about the London Eye is that it is 135m (equivalent to 64 red telephone boxes piled on top of each other) making it the fourth tallest structure in London after the BT Tower, Tower 42 and One Canada Square in Canary Wharf.
The wheel carries 32 sealed and air-conditioned egg-shaped passenger capsules which weigh ten tonnes each, attached to its external circumference with each capsule representing one of the London Boroughs. To put that figure into perspective, the weight of each capsule is the same as 1,052,631 pound coins! The London Eye can carry 800 passengers per revolution – equivalent to 11 London red doubled-decker buses. Each 10 capsule holds 25 people, who are free to walk around inside the capsule, although seating is provided. This means that a capsule effectively travels at a stately 26cm per second, or 0.9km (0.6 miles) per hour so that one revolution takes around 30 minutes. – twice as fast as a tortoise sprinting; allowing passengers to step on and off without the wheel having to stop.
The wheel does not usually stop to take on passengers: the rotation rate is so slow that they can 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.
The spindle holds the wheel structure and the hub rotates it around the spindle. At 23 meters tall, the spindle is around the size of a church spire and, together with the hub, weighs in at 330 tonnes: over 20 times heavier than Big Ben.
The London Eye is located at the western end of Jubilee Gardens, on the South Bank of the River Thames in London, England, between Westminster Bridge and Hungerford Bridge. The site is adjacent to that of the former Dome of Discovery, which was built for the Festival of Britain in 1951.