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London Eye celebrates 10th birthday

The London Eye celebrated its first full decade of operation with a light show and free champagne for visitors on Tuesday evening.

London Eye 10th birthday

The giant observation wheel on the South Bank has welcomed more than 36 million visitors, rotated more than 45,000 times and hosted 433 weddings and civil partnerships.

A 4D cinema was launched last year and a programme to refurbish the 32 capsules is currently under way.

Visitors to the London Eye on Tuesday evening received a free glass of champagne whilst passers-by on the South Bank were entertained by fire eaters and musicians.

For an hour and a half the wheel's multicolour lighting system displayed its full range of special effects and images were projected onto County Hall and the South Bank riverside walkway.

The London Eye – then carrying British Airways branding – formed part of London's New Year celebrations in 2000 but did not officially open to the public until March 2000.

"The London Eye has far exceeded any of our initial expectations when we opened in 2000," says David Sharpe of Merlin Entertainments, owners of the wheel since 2007.

"Ten years on and we've achieved fantastic success, with visitors from all over the world coming to enjoy the city landscape.

"Our eleventh year has already been very busy and we're really excited about what the future holds for the attraction. We hope people can come down and celebrate with us in our birthday month and visitors should look out for more celebrations throughout the year too."

Simon Hughes MP, who along with his Vauxhall colleague Kate Hoey chairs the South Bank Partnership, has added his voice to the congratulations.

He says: "I am one of those who backed the Millennium Wheel from the beginning – against opposition from some colleagues in Parliament who thought it would invade the privacy of MPs' activities on the terrace of the Palace of Westminster!

"The Millennium Wheel – which has now become the London Eye – has gone in 10 years from being a temporary to an established feature of the Thames and London skyline. The London Eye is a welcome and iconic symbol of modern London, and one of the best examples of the progressive architectural and cultural contribution of the South Bank to our capital city.

"It is not an accident that London's annual new year celebration beamed round the world have moved from Trafalgar Square celebrating a 19th century victory to the banks of the Thames celebrating a great 21st century success. As an MP for the South Bank and chair of The Mayor's Thames Festival I want the London Eye to continue to advertise, amuse, attract and inspire for many further decades ahead."

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