I reckon it was a plot to make us all buy two copies of the Evening Standard.
First it was:
The French are making an audacious bid to take the London Eye to Paris.
And then later in the day it was:
The London Eye was saved today after an intervention by Ken Livingstone.
In my posting about this ruckus last week, I said that this attempt to gouge a hugely increased rent out of the Wheel might be linked to the plans now in hand to redevelop the South Bank in general, and in particular to rescue the acoustics of the Royal Festival Hall. Since posting that speculation, I have actually visited the South Bank, and can confirm that building work has already begun.
What I omitted to mention was the Olympic effect. The Wheel is obviously a key part of the attempt to get the 2012 Olympics for London.
Evidently the (for now) South Bank Centre (a government funded quango) boss Lord Hollick reckoned that the Olympic effect would work in his favour, and he still might be proved right. But this is politics he is playing, not business, and it seems more likely that he will come out of this very badly. And the South Bank Centre, instead of getting a substantial fraction of the original absurd rent demand, may end up actually losing money. Hollick, by precipitating this row, has already hurt London’s Olympic bid, and Ken Livingstone surely spoke for many, high and low, when he called him a prat. And being called a prat is the least of Hollick’s problems. The trouble with playing the game of Olympic blackmail is that you are liable then to be savaged by extremely savage people, in the form of our particular feral (when angry) current batch of rulers. Hollick is going to need all the friends he can muster in the days to come.
I do not know how seriously to take the alleged French plan to ship the Wheel over to Paris and make it the cherry in the cake of the Paris bid. I love the Wheel, and never for a minute did I fear that this French plan, even assuming it was serious and not just cooked up by some friend of Ken Livingstone, or of the Evening Standard, would be allowed to come to fruition. So I laughed out loud when I first saw the headline.
I also had another laugh this evening when I looked at this website plugging the South Bank Centre, and saw this:
Situated on the South Bank of the River Thames next to the popular London Eye, the South Bank Centre is at the heart of an arts quarter stretching from the National Film Theatre to Tate Modern and Shakespeare’s Globe.
If London loses the Olympic bid, as most of us here at Samizdata.net pray that it does, then everything will turn out splendidly. Lots of entertainment, and no actual Olympics to spoil the fun.
On the other hand, if London does get landed with the Olympics, stand by for blackmail like you’ve never seen before, from whoever decides to give it a go.