Tim Renwick, the man charged with getting the giant London Eye millennium wheel turning on new year’s eve, is not a disciple of modern management mantras. For one thing, he doubts if there is a formula for dealing with the issues he has had to face since the £35m project started on site more than 12 months ago.

Renwick, project director for construction manager Mace, likes a challenge, but even he has come close to meeting his match getting the 135 m diameter wheel upright. Problems he has encountered range from system failure to environmental protesters invading the site. The project even fell prey to the laws of the sea when the wheel’s glass capsules, shipped to the site via the Thames, were held up midstream because of high tides. Renwick took all these hiccups philosophically, and, in true construction tradition, took his project team off site to the nearest pub for a drink: “The day we failed to get the wheel up we all went out and got blind drunk. The next day we just got on with it.”

West End pubs aside, Renwick believes old-fashioned competition has been key to the project’s success. “All the normal management stuff goes out the window on a project like this. Peer pressure is what works – no one wants to let the team down. We’ve been ruthless to drag this project in on schedule – don’t forget, this is a two-and-a-half-year programme condensed into 14 months.”

Like others involved in millennium projects, he cites the immovable deadline as the most significant factor causing on-site stress. “Obviously, you can’t move the millennium, so you’re eating, sleeping and drinking the project 24 hours a day. People aren’t getting holidays. They’re working long hours and we’re pushing the team almost to breaking point. But we’re on target to deliver it.”

Renwick has found himself thrust into the media spotlight. Client British Airways sent him on a course to learn to handle his new-found fame, but no amount of media training could have prepared him for the day he arrived at work to discover the wheel had been occupied by environmental protesters. “I said at the time there couldn’t be anything else that could hit us, and Monday morning the protesters were at the top of the wheel. They were probably protesting for a good cause but I wish they’d gone somewhere else.”

Like many people in the industry, Renwick seems to enjoy some degree of stress, but he admits the project has had an impact on his wife Patricia and his children: “I have had a few restless nights. The moment people find out I’m working on the wheel, it’s all they want to talk about, and that’s been hard on my family. My son is constantly talking about Daddy’s big wheel. It’s been a great project; it’s London’s Eiffel Tower. But I’m knackered; I wouldn’t want to do another like this for a while yet.”

Tim Renwick London Eye

How much weight have you lost during the project? My weight has gone up and down during the project. But at the moment it’s about where it was when the job started. Low point? On the jokey side, I suppose when The Sunday Times described me as having a non-too-pretty face. On a more serious note, when the first lift failed. High point? When the last capsule was fitted to the wheel. Where will you spend the millennium? On site. Celebrating, not building.

London Eye