by Chan, Belinda
Claimed as the world’s largest observation wheel, the Singapore Flyer took two-and-a-half years to build following its groundbreaking ceremony in September 2005.1 It stands 165-metre-tall and has a diameter of 150 metres. It is about the height of a 42-storey building and was built at the cost of S$240 million.2
This icon was designed by Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa and DP Architects, Singapore, who were inspired by famous icons like the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the London Eye in London.3 Each revolution of the flyer takes approximately 30 minutes. The Singapore Flyer offers 784 passengers in 28 air-conditioned capsules a 360° panoramic view of the Marina Bay skyline with a glimpse of neighbouring countries, Malaysia and Indonesia.4
Maiden turn and official opening
On 11 February 2008, which was the fifth day of Chinese New Year, the Singapore Flyer hosted some 700 guests from 17 companies which paid S$8,888 to put 26 guests into each of the flyer’s 28 capsules. The guests tossed yu sheng (Chinese for “raw fish salad”) and drank champagne as the flyer did two rounds for its inaugural rotation. The Singapore Flyer opened to the public on 1 March 2008.5
The Singapore Flyer marked its official opening on 15 April 2008 with a donation of S$28,000 to The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund and a festival of fireworks, music and performances. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was the guest of honour. Families and senior citizens from grassroots and social welfare organisations were among the invited guests. They were treated to an impressive laser light show and fireworks display choreographed to music and arranged by Singapore composer Iskandar Ismail. There were also other performance highlights by bands, stilt-walkers and unicyclists.6
Turning in a different direction
A directional change was made to the Singapore Flyer on 28 July 2008 when geomancers pointed out that the flyer was “taking fortune away from Singapore” with the direction of its rotation.7 The flyer was then reconfigured at a six-figure sum to turn in the opposite direction. With the change in the direction of the rotation, visitors now start their flyer experience with views of eastern Singapore overlooking beaches and housing estates and end off with the business district and Marina Bay area.8 On 31 July 2008, the Singapore Flyer’s ticket sales crossed the one million mark since it commenced operations five months earlier.9
On 23 December 2008, 173 passengers were trapped in the flyer’s capsules for six hours due to a technical malfunction caused by an electrical fire in the control room that caused the flyer to stop at 4.50 pm. Ten passengers were rescued and lowered by ropes from as high as eight storeys above ground.10 The remaining trapped passengers were able to leave when the flyer resumed rotation at 11.10 pm that evening.11 Two passengers – a 59-year-old woman and a 10-year-old boy – were hospitalised, but were discharged the following morning.12
Following the incident, the flyer was ordered to close by the police pending investigations into the technical glitch. During the period of closure, repair work was carried out along with construction of new backup systems.13 The flyer reopened for business on 26 January 2009, just in time for the Chinese New Year festive period.14 Tenants, whose business was affected by the closure, were given a one-week rental rebate by the flyer’s management.15
In support of festive occasions and international campaigns
In December 2009, the Singapore Flyer celebrated Christmas by lighting up with a Christmas tree that was 83-metre-tall and consisted of 91,000 LED lights.16 In February 2011, the Singapore Flyer was the venue for a yu sheng breakfast organised by the Kreta Ayer-Kim Seng Citizens’ Consultative Committee for 646 of its residents and new citizens. The event made it to the Singapore Book of Records for the largest number of people having yu sheng in the air.17
On 1 October 2011, the Singapore Flyer joined about 200 other global landmarks such as the Empire State Building in the United States and the Taj Mahal in India to put on illuminated pink lights in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.18
The fate of the Singapore Flyer
Barely five years after its opening, the Singapore Flyer has lost its lustre with many of its retail, as well as food and beverage outlets closing down or moving away due to poor business. Many people were of the opinion that the tickets were too expensive, while others felt that the flyer was not attractive enough to warrant a repeat visit.19
The company operating the Singapore Flyer was placed under receivership in May 2013. It put the flyer up for sale with advertisements appearing in major overseas newspapers. In May 2014, Merlin Entertainments – the British company behind the London Eye and Legoland theme parks – announced that it had changed its mind about acquiring the Singapore Flyer.20
In July 2014, it was reported in the news that a Singapore company had “emerged as the forerunner to buy the Singapore Flyer”.21 The founder of popular nightspot Zouk was also interviewed as saying that the flyer could be the “ideal new location” for the club.22
1.Loh, C. K. (2005, September 28). S’pore Flyer to be next ‘necklace’. Today, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Thomas, S. (2008, April 14). Festival to mark Flyer opening. The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Singapore Flyer. (2008–2011). Design Concepts. Retrieved from Singapore Flyer website: http://www.singaporeflyer.com/about-us/design-concepts
4. Singapore Flyer. (2008–2011). About Singapore Flyer. Retrieved from Singapore Flyer website: http://www.singaporeflyer.com/about-us/about-singapore-flyer
5. Cheers Singapore Flyer takes off. (2008, February 12). The Straits Times, p. 1; Lee, H. C. (2008, February 12). Smooth ride on the Singapore Flyer. The Straits Times, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Thomas, S. (2008, April 14). Festival to mark Flyer opening. The Straits Times, p. 18; Jaganathan, J. (2008, April 16). Dazzling opening for S'pore Flyer. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Chee, F. (2008, August 9). Flying with feng shui. The Straits Times, p. 98. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Chee, F. (2008, August 9). Flying with feng shui. The Straits Times, p. 98. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Tan, J. (2008, August 1). Flyer passes 1-million mark in tickets, eyes 2.5m goal. The Straits Times, p. 48. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Chee, K. (2008, December 27). Flyer’s builder arrives amid talk of potential lawsuits. The Business Times, p. 15; Ong, D. L., & Teo X. (2008, December 24). Stuck for 6 hours. Today, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Ong, D. L., & Teo X. (2008, December 24). Stuck for 6 hours. Today, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Flyer victims discharged from SGH. (2008, December 27). Today, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Wong, T. (2009, January 16). Flyer repair over soon but…The Straits Times, p. 27. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Wong, T. (2009, January 28). Crowds return as Flyer turns again. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Wong, T., & Thomas, S. (2009, February 6). 14 Flyer tenants demand compensation. The Straits Times, p. 36. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Christmas comes around. (2009, December 4). The Straits Times, p. 46. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Hoe, Y. N. (2011, February 14). Wrapping up Chinese New Year…. Today, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Singapore Flyer lit with pink lights. (2011, October 1). Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
19. Tan, W., & Philomin, L. (2014, May 8). Singapore Flyer’s woes take a new spin after Merlin talks collapse; STB says discussions are still ongoing with stakeholders but does not confirm if there is another potential buyer. Today; Singapore Flyer must reinvent itself. (2013, July 10). The Business Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
20. Tan, W., & Philomin, L. (2014, May 8). Singapore Flyer’s woes take a new spin after Merlin talks collapse; STB says discussions are still ongoing with stakeholders but does not confirm if there is another potential buyer. Today. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/; Foo, A. (2014, July 5). Local firm ‘in the lead to buy S’pore Flyer’. The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Foo, A. (2014, July 5). Local firm ‘in the lead to buy S’pore Flyer’. The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Foo, A. (2014, July 5). Local firm ‘in the lead to buy S’pore Flyer’. The Straits Times, p. 9; Lim. J. (2014, June 22). Zouk and Singapore Flyer: Perfect for each other? The Straits Times, pp. 8/9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
The information in this article is valid as at 15 July 2014 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.
Streets and Places