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The Shard, Europe’s tallest skyscraper, opens today

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Jeremy Hobson: Now to London, where today the news isn’t about cutting back but rather building up. Europe’s tallest skyscraper is opening today on the south bank of the Thames River. It’s called the Shard — as in a shard of glass — and it’s more than a thousand feet tall.

Now the challenge will be filling it up, as the BBC’s Jon Bithrey reports.

Jon Bithrey: The Shard has completely changed London’s traditionally low-rise skyline. This elongated glass pyramid contains a hotel, apartments and office space – as well as the best views in Britain.

Londoners have watched in awe as this mighty structure has gone up, but it’s divided the city. Many Londoners see it as a symbol of the greed and excess in the years before the financial crisis. And others simply think it’s out of place, like Simon Jenkins, a well-known journalist and author.

Simon Jenkins: It’s a beautiful building, it would look wonderful in Dubai.  I think it has very little to do with the architecture or language of London. It’s a statement; it’s a gesture; it’s a sort of virility symbol. It really has no place I think in the language of London development and planning over the centuries.

The Shard nearly didn’t get built: when the crash came the project nearly went off the rails.  It was saved by a group of investors from Qatar.

But when they’ll get their 200 million dollar investment back isn’t clear. Demand for office space in Central London is weak, so much of this iconic building is likely to stay empty for some time to come.

In London, I’m the BBC’s Jon Bithrey, for Marketplace.

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