(CNN) — In a city full of superlatives, the latest in Dubai’s long list of ‘biggest’ and ‘tallest’ is about to enter the record books.
Ain Dubai, the gigantic observation wheel that has been under construction for more than six years in the city’s Bluewaters Island development, will open on October 21, 2021, becoming the largest “observation wheel” in the world. But not only did it beat the competition, it left it far behind.
At over 250 meters, Ain Dubai is 82 meters taller than the world’s tallest Ferris wheel currently in operation, the Las Vegas High Roller. It is almost twice the size of the London Eye, which towers over the Thames at 135 metres.
Not a city that does things by halves, Dubai’s latest accolade adds to its growing list of engineering feats that fill pages in Guinness World 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 tallest fountain show in the world, the fastest roller coaster in the world, the largest indoor theme park in the world and… you get the idea.
First announced in February 2013, Ain Dubai took over eight years to complete. Construction began in May 2015, with an expected completion date of early to mid-2019. This date was later moved to October 20, 2020 and was pushed back a year when Expo 2020 was pushed back by a year due to the pandemic.
Although rumors have swirled about the reasons for the delays, the team behind Ain Dubai say that with any construction project of this scale, delays are inevitable.
Capacity of 1,750 passengers
Darren Brooke, senior technical director at WSP (chief consultant and architect for Ain Dubai, which essentially designed the wheel), told CNN his team was “constantly pushing the standards”.
“[Esto tiene] the area of four times a standard wheel, [por lo que] we had to put a lot more emphasis on the design, making sure the design approach was refined as much as possible, while still staying within the design standards. But refining that a lot to come up with an efficient and cost-effective design.”
And the numbers associated with this design are impressive.
The structure used 11,200 tons of steel, 33% more than the amount used to build the Eiffel Tower. The maximum force required to lift the wheel was 2,500 tons. The structure’s hub and axle weigh 1,805 tonnes, the equivalent of four A380s, while the combined weight of the tire and 48 passenger cabins is 7,500 tonnes. If the 192 spokes holding the wheel together, 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 for 40 people, which means that up to 1,750 people can board the Ain Dubai at any time.
And, since Bluewaters is an island made up of reclaimed land, piles had to be drilled into bedrock to support the weight of the structure.
As for the passenger experience, given that this is Dubai, it’s understandably a cut above a regular ride on an observation wheel.
There are three different types of cabins for the 38-minute rotation: Observation Cabins (the standard option), Social Cabins (this is the “VIP” option and has a bar in the center of the capsule ) and private cabins. , that they can be reserved for special occasions and include the option of a private three-course dinner during two spins of the wheel.
To carry out all this, experts from all over the world were called in: consultants from the United Arab Emirates, South Korea, Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France and Italy. contributed to key aspects of the design.
But perhaps the biggest success was the hiring of Kevin Dyer as operations manager of Ain Dubai. Dyer was the technical director of the London Eye.
Although 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 and extend this life.
Experts from the Politecnico di Milano, who also worked on the London Eye, took care of analyzing the cables and the structure’s stress cycles, Brooke said, to try to make them last as long as possible.
This way they were able to “double the life of the cables” by looking at the actual stress cycles and loads on each of the London Eye cables, rather than the predicted loads, Brooke said.
“The forces exerted by each of these cables is 300 tons of load at its peak. Each of these 192 cables goes into these axles, or into this hub. So there is a huge concentration of forces.”
Accelerators have also been installed on several cables to obtain real-time data on each of the stress cycles, which will be analyzed and aimed at extending the useful life of the cables and, therefore, of the entire structure.
earthquakes and storms
But the temporary works to help build the wheel were as ambitious as the wheel itself.
A 135 meter high truss structure, constructed from crane mast sections, was used to position the wheel legs. A 300 ton frame was built to hold the eight wheel sections. A bespoke lifting system then pushed each wheel segment 100 meters into the air, where it was attached to the axle, rotated and another segment attached.
During the construction process, rumors circulated that the structure had design flaws that contributed to delaying the opening date: from seized bearings that had to be replaced to sound problems in the cabins, which had to be redesigned.
However, Brooke strongly denies these claims.
“I haven’t heard any rumors based on real events. I’ve heard rumors that the foundations are collapsing, for example,” he says.
“Ain Dubai is the safest place in Dubai. And I say that for two main reasons. First, it is designed for a 2,475 year earthquake. The only other place designed like this is a hospital. It is also rated for storms of 100 miles per hour, or a Beaufort scale 12 hurricane.”
A spokesperson for Ain Dubai shared a similar sentiment: “What we have designed and developed here is hugely complex – it has never been done before, on this scale much of what we have done has was to innovate.”
“Of course, that means that along the way, things don’t always go to plan. We encounter challenges, but as is the spirit of Dubai, we adapt, we find solutions and we are sure that what we offer with Ain Dubai eclipses everything that has come before”.
Tickets are on sale now at aindubai.com. Prices start at 130 AED (about 35 USD).