September 18, 2021

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Ain Dubai: how the largest Ferris wheel in the world was built

(CNN) – In a city full of superlatives, the latest addition to Dubai’s long list of “biggest” and “tallest” is about to enter the record book.

Ain Dubai, the giant Ferris wheel that has been taking shape on the development of the city of Bluewaters Island for over six years, will open on October 21, 2021, making it the largest Ferris wheel in the world. But it didn’t simply beat the competition; erased it.

At more than 250 meters, Ain Dubai is 82 meters taller than the world’s tallest Ferris wheel currently in operation, the Las Vegas High Roller. It’s nearly double the size of the London Eye, which towers over the Thames at 135 meters.
Not a city for doing things by halves, Dubai’s latest accolade simply adds to its ever-growing list of engineering firms that occupy pages in the Guinness Book of Records. Dubai is also home to the tallest tower in the world (the Burj Khalifa), the tallest restaurant in the world, the tallest infinity pool in the world, the largest fountain show in the world, the fastest roller coaster in the world, the park largest indoor theme in the world and … the photo.

First announced in February 2013, Ain Dubai took more than eight years to complete. Construction began in May 2015, with an expected completion date between early and mid-2019. That date was later postponed to 20 October 2020, which was then postponed for another year when Expo 2020 was delayed. one year due to the pandemic.

While rumors have been circulating about the reasons for the delays, the team behind Ain Dubai says that with any construction project of this scale, there are sure to be delays.

Capacity for 1,750 pilots

Darren Brooke, senior technical director at WSP (principal consultant and record architect for Ain Dubai, who essentially designed the wheel), told CNN that his team “was constantly pushing the standards.”

“[This has] the area of ​​four times a standard wheel, [so] we had to put a lot more emphasis on design, making sure the design approach was perfected as much as possible, while staying within design standards. But refining it a lot to actually arrive at an efficient and economical design ”.

And the numbers associated with that design are staggering.

The structure used 11,200 tons of steel to build, about 33% more than the amount used to build the Eiffel Tower. The maximum lifting force required to erect the wheel was 2,500 tons. The hub and axle of the structure weigh 1,805 tons, equivalent to four A380 aircraft, while the combined weight of the rim and 48 passenger cabins is 7,500 tons. If the 192 spokes holding the wheel in place, each made up of 107 separate 9mm thick threads, were pushed together against each other, they would stretch from Dubai to Cairo. Each of the 48 cabins are designed to accommodate 40 people, which means that up to 1,750 people can travel to Ain Dubai at any given time.

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

Global competence

In terms of passenger experience, as this is Dubai, it is naturally a step above the normal Ferris wheel ride.

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

Completing all of this has meant acquiring skills from all corners of the globe: consultants from the United Arab Emirates, South Korea, Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France and Italy contributed to the key aspects of the design.

But perhaps their biggest coup was convincing Kevin Dyer to take on the role of Ain Dubai’s director of operations. Dyer is the former technical director of the London Eye.

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

Experts from the Politecnico di Milano, who also worked on the London Eye, worked on the analysis of the cables and the 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 observing the stress cycles and actual loads on each of the London Eye cables, rather than the expected loads, Brooke said.

“The strength of each of those cables is 300 tons of load at their peak. Each of those 192 cables goes into those spindles or that hub. So you have an enormous concentration of strength. “

Several cables have also been equipped with accelerators, to provide real-time data on each of the stress cycles, which will be analyzed and aimed at extending the life of the cables, and therefore also 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, built with sections of the crane mast, was used to drop the wheel legs into place. A 300-ton trellis was built to secure the eight sections of the circle. A bespoke lifting system then pushed each segment of the rim 100 meters into the air, where they were attached to the spindle, rotated and another segment was fixed.

During this construction process, the structure was haunted by rumors of design flaws that contributed to the delayed opening date, from seized bearings having to be replaced to sound issues with the cabs, which meant they had to be redesigned.

However, Brooke strongly refutes those claims.

“I haven’t heard a rumor that’s actually based on fact. I heard that the foundations were sinking, for example, ”he says.

“Ain Dubai is the safest place to stay in Dubai. And I say this for two fundamental reasons. One, it is designed for an earthquake of one in 2,475 years. The only other place that is designed this way is a hospital. It is also designed for 100mph storms, which is 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 have done has been opening up new horizons.

“This obviously means that along the way, things don’t always go according to plan. We have faced the challenges but, like the spirit of Dubai, we have adapted, we have found solutions and we are confident that what we are offering with Ain Dubai eclipses everything that came before.

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