|The first Ferris wheel from the 1893 World Columbian Exposition in Chicago. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
National news agency WAM carries the news Dubai Ltd has announced another megaproject, the latest in a clearly signalled campaign of 'We're back' announcements. Braggadocio or bravado? You tell me. The Bluewaters plan will see a £1 billion island development off the beach by 'live the lifestyle' Jumeirah Beach Residence. On said island, developers Meeras are plonking an hotel (five star, natch), residences, a souq, an entertainment zone and the world's largest Ferris wheel.
Of course it couldn't just be a big Ferris wheel. It has to be a jaw-dropping, eye-popping 210 meter billion Dirham Ferris wheel. Ideally, scattered with hundreds and thousands and topped with glacé cherries.
It's all based on market studies that indicate the project can expect three million tourists a year to flock to its candy-floss stores and queue up to get a ride
Ferris wheel watchers will likely think this baby will be pipping the London Eye to the biggest Ferris wheel in the world post, but they'd be wrong. It's already been pipped twice - at a mere 135 metres, the London Eye is the mini-me of Ferris wheels (named after their inventor, a Mr. George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr) and was outstripped just six years after its opening by The Star Of Nanchang, a 160 metre behemoth. Just two years later, Singapore ripped the rug from under Nanchang's feet with the Singapore Flyer, which sneaked past the Star to take the Guinness Book entry with a mere five metres' lead.
The Flyer cost Dhs 876 million to build, so it looks like Meeras is getting a bargain from Hyundai Contracting, which will build the Dubai Eye wheel. If the Dubai Eye takes after the Star and the Flyer, it'll rotate once every 30 minutes, be in constant motion (no stopping to get on and off) and have gondolas with a capacity of 28 people.
Those with the memory span of a Higgs Boson will recall The Great Dubai Wheel, which was to have been built in DubaiLand by the Great Wheel Corporation. The project gained planning permission in 2006 and was officially announced as kaputski in 2012 after GWC had gone belly-up with a trail of failed Ferris wheel projects behind it. The Great Dubai Wheel was to have been a 185 metre wheel.
The fate of the Great Wheel Corporation is a fascinating one. It reeled from merger to acquisition to bankruptcy to collapse, through a number of iterations right up until 2012, when it finally folded. By then it was called Great City Attractions Global. GCAG's assets were acquired by Dubai-based Freij Entertainment International which operates GCAG's UK assets through its UK subsidiary Wheels Entertainments Ltd - including the controversial 53-metre York big wheel.
Freij bills itself as 'The world's biggest operator of Amusement Rides' although taking a look at www.freij.com you could also call it the world's biggest operator of a totally rubbish web presence.
Freij operates Dubai's Global Village, the site of the recent fatality when a part fell off the 60 metre Ferris wheel there - it was subsequently revealed this travelling wheel had been linked to the deaths of five people under previous ownership.
And in fact it was Freij CEO Freij Al Zein who first talked to media in April last year about a billion Dirham giant Ferris wheel to be called the Dubai Eye. Slated at the time to be a 170 metre wheel as part of a major 93,000 metre indoor amusement park complex, the project would appear to have finally come to fruition.
Quite whether Freij is still involved is pure speculation - developer Meeras hasn't updated a press release on its website since 2011, so any reliable information on the Bluewaters project beyond the WAM story is scant right now.
But it's interesting, isn't it, the way in which the Great Dubai Wheel dream never really went away but became a baton to be passed from hand to hand?
I wonder when the undersea hotel scheme will bob up to surface again...
PS - It seems to be a coincidence, as the WAM story doesn't mention it, but the story broke on George Ferris' birthday, as celebrated by today's Google doodle! Eerie!