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Ain Dubai: How the world’s largest observation wheel was built

 |cnn-travel Gt
(CNN) – In a city full of superlatives, the latest addition to Dubai’s long list of “greats” and “greats” is poised to take its place in the record books.

Ain Dubai, the giant observation wheel that has been taking shape on the city’s Bluewaters Island development for more than six years, will open on October 21, 2021, becoming the world’s largest observation wheel. But he didn’t just beat the competition; he erased it.

At over 250 meters, Ain Dubai is 82 meters taller than the world’s tallest wheel currently in operation, the High Roller of Las Vegas. It is almost twice the size of the London Eye, which overlooks the Thames from 135 meters.
Not a city to do things by halves, Dubai’s latest accolade simply adds to its ever-growing list of engineering feats taking pages in the Guinness World Records. Dubai is also home to the world’s tallest tower (the Burj Khalifa), the world’s tallest restaurant, the world’s tallest infinity pool, the world’s largest fountain show, the world’s fastest roller coaster, the biggest indoor theme park in the world and … you get the picture.

First announced in February 2013, Ain Dubai took more than eight years to complete. Construction began in May 2015, with an expected completion date of start to mid-2019. This date was then postponed to October 20, 2020, which was then postponed for a year when Expo 2020 was postponed for a year due to the pandemic.

As rumors circulated about the reasons for the delays, the team behind Ain Dubai says that with any construction project of this scale, there are bound to be delays.

Capacity of 1750 runners

Darren Brooke, senior technical director at WSP (Ain Dubai’s senior consultant and benchmark architect, which basically designed the wheel), told CNN his team “are constantly pushing the standards.”

“[This has] the area of ​​four times a standard wheel, [so] we had to put a lot more emphasis on the design, making sure that the design approach is refined as much as possible, while still staying within design standards. But fine-tuning that a lot to get an efficient and cost-effective design. “

And the numbers associated with this design are impressive.

The structure used 11,200 tons of steel in its construction, about 33% more than the amount used to build the Eiffel Tower. The maximum lifting force required to erect the wheel was 2,500 tonnes. The structure’s hub and spindle weigh 1,805 tonnes, the equivalent of four A380 aircraft, while the combined weight of the rim and 48 passenger cabins is 7,500 tonnes. If the 192 spokes that hold the wheel in place, which are each made up of 107 separate 9mm thick wires, were placed end to end, they would stretch from Dubai to Cairo. Each of the 48 cabins is designed to accommodate 40 people, meaning that up to 1,750 people can travel to Ain Dubai at any one time.

And, since Bluewaters is an island made from reclaimed land, the piles had to be drilled down to bedrock to support the weight of the structure.

Global expertise

In terms of passenger experience, considering this is Dubai, it’s understandably a cut above your standard Ferris wheel ride.

There are three different types of cabins to take in the 38-minute rotation: observation cabins (the standard option), social cabins (this is the “VIP” option and have a bar at the pod center) and private cabins, which can be booked for special occasions and include the option of a private three-course dinner on two laps of the wheel.

To make it all happen, it was necessary to draw on expertise from all over the world: consultants from the United Arab Emirates, South Korea, Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France and France. Italy all contributed to key aspects of the design.

But perhaps their biggest blow was bringing in Kevin Dyer to take on the role of COO of Ain Dubai. Dyer is the former technical director of the London Eye.

While Ain Dubai was designed to last 300,000 cycles, or 60 years, to meet strict design and safety codes, measures have been put in place to try to extend that lifespan.

Experts from the Politecnico di Milano, who also worked on the London Eye, worked on analyzing the cables and stress cycles of the structure, Brooke said, to try to make them last as long as possible.

In doing so, they were able to “double the life of the cables” by looking at the stress cycles and actual loads on each of the London Eye’s cables, rather than the expected loads, Brooke said.

“The forces of each of these cables are 300 tons of load at their peak. Each of these 192 cables goes into these pins or into this hub. So you have a tremendous concentration of force.”

Several cables have also been fitted with accelerators, to provide real-time data on each of the stress cycles, which will be analyzed and aim to extend the life of the cables, and therefore of the overall structure.

Earthquakes and storms

But the temporary work to help build the wheel was just as ambitious as the wheel itself.

A 135-meter-high frame structure, constructed from sections of crane mast, was used to put the wheel legs in place. A 300 ton truss was built to secure the eight sections of the rim. A bespoke lifting system then pushed each rim segment 100 yards into the air, where they were attached to the spindle, rotated, and another segment attached.

During this construction process, the structure was plagued by rumors of design flaws that contributed to the delayed opening date – from seized bearings that needed to be replaced to sound issues with the cabins, which meant that they had to be rethought.

However, Brooke strongly refutes these claims.

“I haven’t heard a single rumor based on any fact. I’ve heard rumors that the foundations are collapsing, for example,” he said.

“Ain Dubai is the safest place to be in Dubai. And I mean this for two basic reasons. First, it is designed for a 2,475 year earthquake. The only other place that’s designed like this is a hospital. It is also designed for storms of 100 miles per hour, it is the hurricane scale 12 on the Beaufort scale. “

A similar sentiment was shared by a spokesperson for Ain Dubai: “What we have designed and developed here is extremely complex – it has never been done before, on this scale, so a lot of what we do. have innovated.

“This of course means that along the way things don’t always go as planned. We took on challenges, but as this is the spirit of Dubai, we have adapted, we have found solutions and we are convinced that what we deliver with Ain Dubai eclipses all that came before it. “

Tickets are on sale now on Prices start at AED 130 (around $ 35).