London Eye

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London Eye ( 480x640 )
London Eye is an observation wheel located on the south bank of the Thames River, in western end of Jubilee Gardens. With the height of 135 metres (442.9 feet) it is the tallest observation wheel in the world. It is known also as Millennium Wheel.

The construction was designed by several architects: David Marks, Julia Barfield, Malcolm Cook, Mark Sparrowhawk, Steven Chilton, Frank Anatole and Nic Bailey. It was completed in 1999 and opened by British Prime Minister Tony Blair on December 31, 1999 but it opened to public just in March 2000 because some technical problems. In February 2006 it finally got the 25-years lease agreement for the ground it stands on.

As far as the construction itself is concerned, the rim is supported by tie rods so the wheel looks like a huge bicycle wheel. The construction was built in the Netherlands and floated to London up the Thames. When completed on pontoons, London Eye was lifted by cranes. The weight of the whole construction is 1,700 tonnes. There are 32 sealed and air-conditioned capsules attached to external circumference. Each of them holds approximately 25 people. One ride takes about 30 minutes (the rotation speed is 26 centimetres per second). With such slow speed it is not necessary for wheel to stop when changing passengers (although it stops for elderly or disabled passengers).

The London Eye has become the most popular paid visitor attraction in the UK, visited by over 3.5 million people a year. It is operated by Merlin Entertainments but sponsored by British Airways. Since 1 January 2005, the Eye has been the main point of London's New Year celebrations with fireworks fired also from wheel itself. From the curiosities about the London Eye, it is necessary to mention, that it is able to have wedding or celebrate the civil partnership in one of the capsules.
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