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Friday, 3 December, 1999, 14:51 GMT
Firms grab Millennium Wheel tickets

wheel The wheel is the fourth highest structure in London

Almost 500,000 tickets for London's millennium wheel have already been sold before going on general sale, it has emerged.

Businesses and corporations in the UK and abroad have already booked places for the 450ft ferris wheel - giving rise to projected sales of 3.8m by the end of 2000.

Speaking on the day the booking line was opened to the public, Jamie Bowden, of British Airways, the London Eye's main sponsor, said interest in the world's largest big wheel was already intense.

He said: "By any stretch of the imagination, the wheel is going to be propelled into place as one of London's most popular attractions."

At night time it is going to be magic. It is utterly charming.
Joanna Lumley
The 20 million wheel will start turning on 31 December but will not be open to the public until the middle of January.

Tickets went on sale for the first time to the public at 0800 GMT on Friday, costing 7.45 for adults and 4.95 for children.

The public will be able to specify the exact date and time of their ride using the computerised options system on the hot line and then collect their tickets on the site on the day.

Other outlets for public tickets such as a special website and the on-site ticket office will be opened in January.

Actress Joanna Lumley unveiled the telephone booking number for the ride, which will give passengers a 25-mile view across London on a clear day.

The Absolutely Fabulous star confirmed she would be one of the first to ride to the top of the wheel.

She said: "At night-time it is going to be magic. It is utterly charming."

Whisked skywards

The wheel, in its final stages of construction, is the fourth tallest structure in London, dwarfed only by Canary Wharf, the NatWest building and the London Telecom Tower.

Designed by husband and wife team, Julia Barfield and David Marks, it is set to remain in place for five years.

Visitors will be whisked skywards in one of 32 egg-shaped capsules on a 30-minute ride on the wheel which will turn continuously, completing a full rotation an average of 6,000 times a year.

The 32 capsules are undergoing stability tests, in advance of the official opening on Millennium Eve at 2030 GMT.

The wheel has been hit by delays during its complex construction, notably when a cable snapped as the first attempt was being made to lift it upright.

The ticket hot line number is 0870 5000 600.

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See also:
28 Oct 99 |  UK
Tide puts spoke in Millennium Wheel
04 Aug 99 |  South Asia
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16 Oct 99 |  UK
Q & A: The London Eye
25 Oct 99 |  UK
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