With new hotels, bars and high rises seeming to open in their city every 15 to 20 minutes, Hong Kongers may be the toughest people in the world to impress with new construction — it takes a lot to get noticed here.
The latest addition to the city’s famed skyline, however, has inspired plenty of conversation, and a little controversy.
The Hong Kong Observation Wheel — a 60-meter-tall harborfront Ferris wheel — opened to the public on Friday.
About 300 people lined up to get on the wheel during its first hour of operation.
The wheel includes 42 gondolas — heated in winter, air-conditioned in summer — and free Wi-Fi.
Not long after its Friday opening, a daredevil climber posted photos of himself and fellow climbers sitting atop the structure — the images were taken during an unauthorized climb in September, before the ride was open to the public.
The photos have brought the wheel’s security into question, while attracting admirers of both the wheel and the daring interlopers.
“It was indeed an amazing ride,” Keow Wee Loong, one of the climbers, told South China Morning Post.
In a city brimming with skyscrapers, there are plenty of places to get dramatic views of the skyline.
Near the Hong Kong Observation Wheel, the International Finance Centre (IFC) commercial development on the harborfront in the city’s Central district, has an observatory deck on the 55th floor.
Central Plaza has a viewing space on the 46th floor.
Rather than offering the highest view, the Hong Kong Observation Wheel boasts of a prime location, directly in front of the Central harbor (the city’s business center), giving it unobstructed views of the city.
“The wheel is in the best location in not only Hong Kong, but anywhere in the world,” says Timothy Peirson-Smith of Swiss AEX, the company that operates the Observation Wheel.
Swiss AEX says it expects the wheel to attract a million visitors a year and generate HK$93 million (about US$12 million) for the economy.
“The new Observation Wheel adds to the unique perspective that Hong Kong is well known for,” adds Perison-Smith.
Since the Hong Kong government’s announcement of the Hong Kong Observation Wheel plan two years ago, the project has been the subject of criticism.
Construction was delayed several times and many have complained about a lack of information available to the public about the opening.
Some question the necessity of the wheel at all.
“If there’s an example of why we need a Harbourfront authority, [the wheel] is it,” Nicholas Brooke, chairman of the Harbourfront Commission told Timeout Hong Kong in November. Though able to comment on and suggest improvements to development projects, the Harbourfront Commission is an advocacy group with no executive powers.
“My ambitions would be to do something far bigger and better than the wheel,” Brooke said.
A round on the wheel takes about 20 minutes. Tickets get riders three rounds in total.
Hong Kong Observation Wheel, 33 Man Kwong St., Central (in front of Piers 9 and 10); 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Tickets HK$100 (US$13) for adult, HK$70 (US$9) for students and children under 12 (three rounds on the wheel)
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