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Sunday, October 17, 1999 Published at 17:04 GMT 18:04 UK


Millennium Wheel ready to roll

The wheel now stands 450ft high

Champagne corks popped as the Millennium Wheel was finally hauled into its dominant place on London's skyline.

Organisers pledged it would be finished in time for 2000 as the complex lifting operation came to an end.

[ image: The wheel dominates London's skyline]
The wheel dominates London's skyline
A spokeswoman for sponsors British Airways said: "We are all ecstatic and thrilled. We are opening champagne to celebrate. It looks wonderful."

She said there was still much work to be carried out before the end of December, but added: "It is a fairly tight programme but we are very confident that we will get there."

BBC News' Emma Simpson: "It's vertical and it's visible"
The 450ft wheel, more than double the height of Big Ben, stood upright on the banks of the River Thames at 0227 BST on Sunday. It was delayed through the day for last-minute checks and adjustments.

The next job will be fitting the 32 egg-shaped viewing capsules, which weigh nine tonnes each. Carrying about 25 people, the capsules are currently in storage in Dartford, Kent, and are expected to be transported up the river on barges.

Watch the wheel go up in timelapse photography
The capsules, built in Grenoble, France, by French ski-lift company Poma, will be fitted to the 1,500-tonne London Eye in the first week of November.

The BA spokeswoman said they would be floated up the river to the site and fitted in batches of four over a period of between eight to 10 days.

[ image: The huge structure was raised in stages]
The huge structure was raised in stages
"They have been subject to standard safety tests. Obviously safety is an absolute priority," she added.

People will be able to sit in the fully enclosed capsules, which are mainly made of glass, in the comfort of air conditioning and listen to a running commentary.

A computer-generated view of how the wheel will look when finished
The wheel, designed by husband-and-wife team Julia Barfield and David Marks, is set to remain in place for five years. On a clear day, visitors are expected to be able to see seven counties from the wheel.

The fourth-tallest structure in London, the wheel includes a frame from Holland, Italian cables, French capsules, British steel and a Czech spindle.

Passengers will be able to get on and off without it stopping, as it will rotate very slowly. A full trip will take 30 minutes.

BA plans to include local people and others connected with the project in the official opening. The wheel will open to the general public early in January.

It will have the capacity to carry 15,000 visitors a day.

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