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Observation wheels: a history (and a new lease of life for the 21st century)
A classic attraction gets brought up to date for the modern day
Ever since it opened in 2000, attraction operators across the world have looked on with envy at the London Eye. But what are the ingredients for observation wheel success, and do any other sky-high attractions have the same potential?
Observation wheels are nothing new. Civil engineer George WG Ferris’ eponymous construction was famously built for the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago back in 1893. Its height, 264 feet (80 metres), was impressive for the time.
Similar looking and lofty attractions opened soon after in Paris, London and Vienna. The latter still stands to this day at the city’s Prater amusement park.
With its large, enclosed cabins, Ferris’ original wheel took 20 minutes to complete a full rotation. In that sense, the experience it offered was more in keeping with modern-day observation wheels, like the London Eye and Singapore Flyer, than the smaller but faster carnival wheels that followed.
Yet when it ushered in the new millennium on the banks of the River Thames, the Eye was successful in reinventing the observation wheel for the 21st Century. With their enclosed gondolas or pods, observation wheels are surely the ultimate socially distanced attraction. A bubble for your bubble, if you like.