An icon of the 21st century the London Eye is Britain’s single biggest tourist attraction.
George Ferris was the man who, in 1893, designed the very first ‘wheel’ for fairground passengers. It was built to celebrate America’s engineering capabilities and specially commissioned for the Chicago World Fair. He is immortalised in the name given to such structures - the Ferris Wheel.
From then on, imitation wheels were a feature of numerous carnivals, festivals and fairs all over the world. The London Eye was a modern re-branding of the Ferris Wheel as an ‘observation’ wheel. It, too, has prompted a flurry of modern wheels worldwide.
The tallest wheel in Europe
From the top of the Eye on a clear day it is possible to see for 40km, across the whole of London and as far as Windsor Castle. The tallest wheel in Europe (135m), it can accommodate up to 800 people at a time, moving at a barely noticeable speed of less than one km per hour.
Looking just like a bicycle wheel with its thin capsule rim, spokes and central hub, this elegant structure is unusual. This is because the supporting A-frame stands on one side only, with the wheel cantilevered out from it.
The individual components were made off-site and floated on pontoons up the Thames to be assembled in Jubilee Gardens near Waterloo Station.
In common with many world cities, billions of pounds were spent in Britain on millennium celebrations and commemorative structures. The London Eye is one of the most impressive and long-lived. It has become an icon; its 3.5 million visitors each year making it the most popular tourist attraction in Britain.
Tourism is one of our biggest earners and part of our service industry that generated more than £125 billion income for the British economy in 2013. Tourism is the the UK's third-largest source of employment with over 3 million jobs.