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1999: Millennium Wheel edges upwards
Thousands have assembled to watch a giant Ferris wheel move into position as the new landmark on the London skyline.

The engineering feat has taken all weekend. The wheel now stands some 400ft (125m) high, surpassing the Big Ben clock tower and St Paul's Cathedral.

But it still has some way to go and now leans at 65 degrees above the River Thames.

'Bicycle wheel'

One sceptical observer said: "It looks like a large bicycle wheel with spokes, I assume it works all right but it looks highly dangerous to me - I'm not going on it!"

Others came to marvel at the complex engineering operation.

"We've driven up specially today just to see it...it's tremendous."

Others came to capture a fast changing London landscape with their easels and sketchbooks.

Hoisted by cables and cranes, the 20 million, 1700 metric tonne steel construction moved towards its upright position at the speed of 3.5 metres per hour.

Under the media spotlight a month ago, the first attempt to crank the structure off the ground failed when one of a series of sockets holding high-tension cables to the wheel's rim suddenly slipped.

Now the sockets have been redesigned. 6.5 kilometres of high-tension cable have been attached to the wheel's 80 spokes to help haul it into position.

The wheel will be in its vertical position by next week, and developers promise it will be ready to take its first visitors by New Year's Eve.

Officially the Millennium Wheel has been given a five year lifespan, but Paul Baxter, the project manager, thinks it will last much longer.

"The Eiffel tower was initially there just for the Paris exhibition," he said.

Built for the 1889 Paris exhibition, the Eiffel Tower remains to this day one of the most famous landmarks of the French capital.

The Millennium Wheel's designers and developers are hoping the London attraction will achieve similar immortality.

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Millennium wheel
The biggest wheel in the world?

Millennium Wheel hoisted further into place


In Context
One of the tallest structures in London, the Millennium Wheel, better known now as the London Eye, stands 135 metres high on the South Bank of London between Waterloo station and Westminster Bridge.

It has proven one of the most successful Millennium ventures. Since its opening the attraction has had an average of 10,000 visitors a day.

Despite its engineers' assurances, a last minute technical hitch stopped the wheel spinning at its planned VIP opening on New Year's Eve 2000.

It takes around 30 minutes for the wheel to do one revolution. Visitors hop on and off each of the 32 capsules as the wheel continues to move.

Stories From 10 Oct


 
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