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Paris Ferris wheel keeps turning

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PARIS — A court ordered Paris's giant Millennium Ferris wheel dismantled by the end of the weekend on Friday, but in an act of defiance, the wheel kept on turning.

Owners of the 195-foot high fairground attraction shrugged off the court's ruling that its presence on one of the capital's historic squares was illegal and said they would stay put despite hefty daily fines and fierce political opposition.

"The wheel will continue to turn," said Marcel Campion, the wheel's creator and co-owner. "The wheel will still be there (on Sunday); Parisians will be able to enjoy it."

Rarely since 1889, when public pressure secured the survival of the supposedly temporary Eiffel Tower, has the future of a landmark in the French capital caused such a furor.

A fierce debate about the wheel, which is less than half the height of London's Millennium wheel, has divided opinion between those keen to keep the tourist attraction and traditionalists who argue it is an eyesore.

After two years on the sprawling Place de la Concorde at the bottom of the Champs Elysees boulevard, the owners of the fairground attraction are refusing to leave, as they say no real alternative to the prime site has been suggested.

But city fathers say the wheel, which was set up on the historic square as part of turn-of-the-century celebrations, has already had an extra year's grace and they are sick of the sight of it and its accompanying hotdog and souvenir stands.

Friday, a civil court ruled in favor of a legal suit brought by Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe deeming the wheel to be illegally occupying the square, which is registered as an historic monument.

It set hefty fines of 15,000 euros ($13,390) for each day the wheel remains in place beyond the Sunday deadline and gave the go-ahead for city authorities to impound property and forcibly dismantle it, if necessary, next week.

But Campion, whose giant structure has become popular with tourists eager to enjoy magnificent views of the capital, does not give up easily.

The former fairground manager mobilized a high profile support campaign last year and has already got a power generator on site to ensure the wheel turns and the 50,000 light bulbs are lit even if the authorities turn off the main supply.

Campion has also filed counter-suits against City Hall for non-respect of contracts as he insists he was promised two years on the site with a third at an equivalent location.