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Controversy as Algarve’s whopper Ferris wheel opens under grey skies

The grand opening of the Algarve’s whopper Ferris wheel in Portimão last weekend bombed on two counts.

First, the weather took the spark out of what should have been a razzmatazz event and, second, locals were rather peeved that the council has been putting time and energy promoting the wheel when there are “so many more problems in the municipality to deal with”.

At Monday’s municipal assembly, João Caetano of the “Servir Portimão” coalition questioned why the unnamed private investor behind the venture has been spared paying municipal taxes.

He suggested there is “nothing to justify” the council’s decision.

But mayoress Isilda Gomes was sticking to her guns.

The wheel will attract a lot of people to Portimão (at least, once the weather improves) and be “a touristic and promotional asset”.

Indeed, the waiving of municipal tax was the carrot that snapped-up the massive structure in the first place.

Gomes told the meeting that both Loulé and Albufeira were sought out as locations, but neither would waive their local taxes.

Thus – for this season anyway – Portimão is the coastal centre to boast the region’s largest Ferris wheel, weighing in at 95 tons, as “tall as a 12-storey building” and illuminated by 8000 LED lights.

Located between the Clube Naval and Repsol fuel station on the town’s riverside, the 37-metre structure supports 24 cabins, each able to take six people paying €5 each (children pay €4).

In full swing, the wheel will be able to rotate 144 punters on every ride – a total income at full capacity around €700.