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Thursday, 24 January, 2002, 17:31 GMT
Paris big wheel comes down
Workers begin to take down the wheel
It could take several months to dismantle the wheel
Construction workers have started to dismantle the giant ferris wheel at the historic Place de la Concorde in Paris, after the attraction was shut down by a court order.


I understand that the wheel is not the Eiffel Tower

Marcel Campion
Wheel co-owner
The 60-metre (200-foot) wheel was originally put up as part of the city's millennium celebrations and was due to spin for just a year, but received an extension on its stay.

However the Mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe, said earlier this month that the wheel had outstayed its welcome, and launched successful judicial proceedings against the owners when they failed to take it down by 7 January.

On Thursday, construction teams began to unhinge the wheel's cabins and panels in a dismantling process that could take months.

"Eyesore"

Co-owner Marcel Campion had argued it should remain in place for another year because of its popularity among many Parisians and tourists to the French capital.

The mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe
Delanoe: It has to go
But critics said the wheel - with its 50,000 lights and food and souvenir stands - was an eyesore on one of the world's most famous squares.

The row triggered a natioal debate in France, with many saying the wheel was a landmark the city should take pride in, as it did with the Eiffel Tower.

The presiding judge, however, refused to be swayed by claims of public support or by an offer to donate 20% of the wheel's profits to cancer charities.

He ordered the owners to pay fines of more than $13,000 a day if the wheel is not taken down within two days of the injunction being served, leaving them with little choice but to dismantle it.

Mr Marcel says he understands "the wheel is not the Eiffel tower", but is still hoping that the city will find another location for his attraction.

Mayor Delanoe told France-2 TV earlier this week that the city might be interested in buying it and moving it elsewhere.

See also:

08 Jan 02 | Europe
Paris in a spin over big wheel
01 Jan 00 | Europe
Pageantry on the Champs Elysees
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