The London Eye is 20! And oh has it had quite the ride… What started as a temporary fixture is now celebrated as an iconic piece of architecture and firmly part of London’s skyline. New Year’s Eve 1999 saw Prime Minister Tony Blair set the wheel in motion for its first ever rotation and on 9 March 2000 its pods were opened to the public. The London Eye has seen a whole lot of action over the past 20 years including a visit from the Royal family; Mary Poppins taking a trip on top of a pod; Mo Farrah saying farewell to his sporting career; multi coloured rainbow lights for Pride and SO much more.
To understand exactly what 20 years’ of the London Eye in South Bank means, we sat down with manager of the London Eye, Sunny Jouhal to find out more.
We can’t believe it’s the London Eye’s 20th Birthday! What are you doing to celebrate?
Sunny: “It’s hugely exciting to be celebrating the 20th birthday of such an iconic structure, our teams have been working hard to create a whole host of exciting campaigns across this milestone birthday year. As you can imagine we’re ready to get the party started in true London Eye style, so we’ve planned the ultimate birthday weekend from the 6th – 9th March, as we celebrate 20 years to the day that we first opened to the public. To mark the occasion, there are going to be 20 immersive pod takeovers with interactive experiences that represent London. There will be something for everyone across culture, the arts and entertainment. We’ll then be hosting standalone events across the year, so if you can’t make it don’t panic, we’ll be celebrating all year.”
What does it mean for the London Eye to have been in South Bank for 20 years, bearing in mind it wasn’t intended to be a permanent fixture?
Sunny: “The London Eye, or Millennium Wheel, was built to mark the arrival of the 2000’s as a symbol of time and change, the perfect structure for a city that never stands still. Since then it’s become an iconic part of the London skyline, that’s recognised the world over, making it hard to believe that it was only ever intended to be in place for five years. It’s a true testament to the passion and commitment of all the teams that have worked on the Eye for the last 20 years, plus the unique and unbeatable experience it provides, that has made it a ‘must-do’ part of the city, it’s a fantastic achievement!”
What’s your favourite memory/ best story about the London Eye?
Sunny: “I’ve been very lucky to experience so many huge moments at the Eye, with no one day ever being the same. You’ll have an Olympic champion standing on top of a pod one day and the next you’ll have a visit from the Royal Family, some days we even transform the pods into giant immersive snow globes! However, what I see every day is our team being ‘guest obsessed’, this fills me with a huge sense of pride and seeing their passion for the attraction is something that will always stay with me.”
What’s the biggest change you’ve seen to the area since the London Eye came to South Bank?
Sunny: “The South Bank is such a dynamic and exhilarating part of the city, it has the ability to place anyone visiting the area right at the heart of the London’s cultural scene. The whole area has flourished, whilst staying true to its heritage, over the last 20 years with more to do in the area than ever before. You’ll find everything from world-renowned arts and entertainment venues to the ‘must-do’ attractions in the city, not forgetting some incredible food. We wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
What’s been the biggest change been to the London Eye experience since 2000?
Sunny: “The London Eye experience has been ever-evolving, from the introduction of our 4D cinema experience to the prestigious Eye Lounge Champagne Bar. However, my personal favourite part of the experience is the continued focus on providing the ultimate experience for our guests, whether this be with a glass of champagne or in a private capsule with the whole family, we’ve welcomed over 75million people who’ve all been able to experience this incredible city from a structure like no other in London.”
What’s a fact that would surprise people about the London Eye?
Sunny: “My favourite fact would be that there are 32 pods for 32 London boroughs. And for superstitious reasons they are numbered up to 33, with pod 13 left out for good luck.
What’s in store for the London Eye in 2020 and beyond?
Sunny: “We’re delighted to be working with lastminute.com as our new headline sponsor, to enter a milestone year partnered with such a well renowned brand and an array of exciting collaborative plans is something the whole team are looking forward to. Of course, our brilliant team are working on all manner of ways that we can surprise and delight as many guests as possible this year, making sure everyone visiting us has an unforgettable experience. I’m personally looking forward to bringing all our plans to life, it’s truly a fantastic time to be part of the London Eye team!”
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