How raising the wheel became pie in the sky

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The Independent Online
"TRIED TO lift it, couldn't even shift it, we were getting no- where. So we had a cup of tea." The ranks of British Airways staff may have liked something stronger as they waited for the company's giant Ferris wheel to be hoisted to the London skyline.

The millennium attraction was to be lifted, said the press release, in a "simple grip and pull" operation. The phrase would come to haunt them.

It all began at 7am yesterday when the crew arrived to begin lifting the 135m-high, 2,100-ton wheel into place. "We now have lift off. All eyes will be on the wheel as it slowly rises to join London's skyline," said David Marks and Julia Barfield, the wheel's architects.

All eyes were indeed on the wheel - but for the wrong reasons. The first hiccup came when computer signals supposed to "bounce" the wheel's image on to television screens failed. After much head- scratching the culprit was found. It was - of course - the media: television van microwaves were scrambling the signals.

A hasty meeting was convened and the broadcast signals were changed. By now it was 3pm and the 16-hour lifting operation was somewhat behind schedule. Then it was found that one of the four restraining cables holding the wheel in place was chafing and had to be adjusted. The minutes ticked by.

At 4pm a spokeswoman said the lift would begin at 5pm... when there was an almighty bang and several cables started flapping in the breeze. The press officers jumped, rushed into a caravan and refused to come out.

Finally one emerged and said, with regret, that the lifting operation had been suspended for a few days.