The London Eye
The Merlin Entertainments London Eye (known more simply as The London Eye, and also known as the Millennium Wheel), at a height of 135 metres (443 ft), is the largest Ferris wheel in Europe, and has become the most popular paid tourist attraction in the United Kingdom, visited by over three million people in one year. At the time it was erected, in 1999, it was the tallest Ferris wheel in the world, until it was surpassed by the Star of Nanchang (160 m) in May 2006, and then the Singapore Flyer (165 m) on 11 February 2008. However, it is still described by its operators as "the world's tallest cantilevered observation wheel" (as the entire structure is supported by an A-frame on one side only).
The London Eye is located at the western end of Jubilee Gardens, on the South Bank of the River Thames in the London Borough of Lambeth in England, between Westminster Bridge and Hungerford Bridge. The site is adjacent to that of the former Dome of Discovery, which was built for the Festival of Britain in 1951.
The London Eye was formally opened by the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, on 31 December 1999, although it was not opened to the public until March 2000 because of technical problems. Since its opening, the Eye, operated by Merlin Entertainments, has become a major landmark and tourist attraction.
By July 2002, 8.5 million people had ridden the Eye. It had planning permission only for five years, but at that time Lambeth Council agreed to plans to make the attraction permanent.
Since 1 January 2005, the Eye has been the focal point of London's New Year celebrations, with 10-minute fireworks displays taking place involving fireworks fired from the wheel itself.
In 2008 the Tussauds Group bought out the other two joint owners, British Airways and the Marks Barfield family (the lead architects). Following Merlin Entertainments purchase of the Tussauds Group in 2007, it now owns 100% of the Eye. British Airways continued its brand association, but from the beginning of 2008 the name 'British Airways' was dropped from the logo.
On 12 August 2009 the London Eye saw another re-brand, this time calling it "The Merlin Entertainments London Eye" to show Merlin Entertainments' ownership. A new logo was designed for the attraction - this time taking the actual form of an eye made out of London's famous landmarks. This also came at the time when the new Merlin Entertainments London Eye 4D Experience pre-flight show was launched underneath the ticket centre in County Hall.
The exterior, left, and interior, right, of one of the 32 sealed and air conditioned passenger capsules.
During the bidding process of the 2012 Olympic Games, the London bid organisers announced the Olympic emblem would be attached to the Eye for the duration of the 2012 Summer Olympics.
On 5 June 2008 it was announced that 30 million people had ridden the London Eye since its opening in March 2000.
In 2009 Merlin Entertainments opened a pre-flight 4D Experience at The London Eye, which is included in the ticket price. The newly refurbished ticket hall and 4D cinema experience was designed by architects Kay Elliott working with Merlin Sudios project designer Craig Sciba. Merlin Studios later appointed Simex-Iwerks as the 4D theatre hardware specialists.