The MILLENNIUM DOME, subsequently referred to simply as THE DOME, is
the original name of a large dome -shaped building, originally used to
house the MILLENNIUM EXPERIENCE, a major exhibition celebrating the
beginning of the third millennium of the
Common Era . Located on the
Greenwich Peninsula in South East
London , England, the exhibition was
open to the public from 1 January to 31 December 2000. The project and
exhibition was the subject of considerable political controversy as it
failed to attract the number of visitors anticipated, with recurring
financial problems. All of the original exhibition and associated
complex has since been demolished. The dome still exists, and it is
now a key exterior feature of The O2 . The
Prime Meridian passes the
western edge of the
Dome and the nearest
London Underground station is
North Greenwich on the
Jubilee line .
* 1 Construction
* 2 Background to the
* 3 Millennium Experience
* 3.1 The exhibits
* 3.2 Other attractions
* 3.3 Financial and management problems
* 4 The aftermath
* 4.1 Dispersal of exhibits
* 4.2 Temporary reopenings
* 4.3 Redevelopment and rebranding as The O2
* 5 Effects on political careers
* 6 Chronology of the project
* 7 In popular culture
* 8 See also
* 9 References
* 10 External links
The roof seen from the air The dome, seen from the
Emirates Air Line
The dome is one of the largest of its type in the world. Externally,
it appears as a large white marquee with twelve 100 m-high yellow
support towers, one for each month of the year, or each hour of the
clock face, representing the role played by
Greenwich Mean Time . In
plan view it is circular, 365 m (one metre for each day in a standard
year) in diameter. It has become one of the United Kingdom's most
recognisable landmarks. It can easily be seen on aerial photographs of
London. Its exterior is reminiscent of the
Dome of Discovery built for
Festival of Britain in 1951.
The architect was
Richard Rogers and the contractor was a joint
venture company, McAlpine/Laing Joint Venture (MLJV) formed between
Sir Robert McAlpine and Laing Management. The building structure was
Buro Happold , and the entire roof structure weighs less
than the air contained within the building. Although referred to as a
dome it is not strictly one as it is not self-supporting, but is in
fact a giant Big Top, the canopy being supported by a dome-shaped
cable network, from twelve king posts. For this reason, it has been
disparagingly referred to as the Millennium Tent. The twelve posts
represent the twelve months of the year, another reference to time in
its dimensions, alongside its height and diameter.
The canopy is made of PTFE -coated glass fibre fabric , a durable and
weather-resistant plastic, and is 52 m high in the middle – one
metre for each week of the year. Its symmetry is interrupted by a hole
through which a ventilation shaft from the
Blackwall Tunnel rises. As
with all tent canopies, the roof has a finite weathering life; and
once this is reached the decision will need to be made, either to
replace it, at enormous cost, or to remove the entire structure.
Jonathan Meades has scathingly referred to the Millennium
Dome as a "Museum of Toxic Waste", and apart from the dome itself,
the project included the reclamation of the entire Greenwich
Peninsula. The land was previously derelict and contaminated by toxic
East Greenwich Gas Works that operated from 1889 to 1985 .
The clean-up operation was seen by the then Deputy Prime Minister
Michael Heseltine as an investment that would add a large area of
useful land to the crowded capital. This was billed as part of a
larger plan to regenerate a large, sparsely populated area to the east
London and south of the
River Thames , an area initially called the
East Thames Corridor but latterly marketed as the "
Thames Gateway ".
BACKGROUND TO THE DOME PROJECT
Dome project was conceived, originally on a somewhat smaller
John Major 's Conservative government , as a Festival of
Britain or World\'s Fair -type showcase to celebrate the third
millennium . The incoming Labour government elected in 1997 under Tony
Blair greatly expanded the size, scope and funding of the project. It
also significantly increased expectations of what would be delivered.
Just before its opening Blair claimed the
Dome would be "a triumph of
confidence over cynicism, boldness over blandness, excellence over
mediocrity". In the words of
BBC correspondent Robert Orchard, "the
Dome was to be highlighted as a glittering
New Labour achievement in
the next election manifesto", but criticised in the 2001 Conservative
Party manifesto as "banal, anonymous and rootless", and lacking "a
sense of Britain’s history or culture".
However, before its opening, The
Dome was excoriated in Iain Sinclair
's diatribe, Sorry Meniscus – Excursions to the Millennium Dome
London 1999, ISBN 1-86197-179-6 ), which accurately
forecast the hype, the political posturing and the eventual
disillusion. The post-exhibition plan had been to convert The Dome
into a football stadium which would last for 25 years: Charlton
Athletic at one point considered a possible move but instead chose to
redevelop their own stadium. Fisher Athletic were a local team
interested in moving to the Dome, but they were considered to have too
small a fan base to make this feasible. The
Dome was planned to take
over the functions performed by the
London Arena , after its closure.
This is the function which
The O2 Arena has now undertaken.
Dome Show The Millennium
Dome at night,
After a private opening on the evening of 31 December 1999 the
Millennium Experience at the
Dome was open to the public for the whole
of 2000, and contained a large number of attractions and exhibits.
Play media A short clip inside the Millennium
Dome in London,
mid 2000. Shows some of the interior, a robot figure, inside of the
The interior space was subdivided into 14 zones (with the lead
designers of the zones):
WHO WE ARE:
* BODY, sponsored by Boots, supported by L\'Oréal and Roche
(Branson Cortes Architecture )
* MIND, sponsored by
BAE Systems and Marconi (Office of
Zaha Hadid )
* FAITH comprised 5 sections:
History of Christianity , Making of
Key Life Experiences, How Shall I live?, Night Rain (a contemplation
area designed by
James Turrell ) and Faith Festivals Calendar (Eva
Jiricna Architects with Jasper Jacobs Associates)
* SELF PORTRAIT, sponsored by Marks ">
Surrounded by the zones was a performance area in the centre of the
dome. With music composed by
Peter Gabriel and an acrobatic cast of
160, the Millennium
Dome Show was performed 999 times over the course
of the year. Throughout the year, the specially-commissioned film
Blackadder: Back "> An aircraft preparing to take off from London
City Airport, with the
Canary Wharf in the background.
There were a number of other attractions both in and outside of The
Dome. Inside the
Dome there was a play area named Timekeepers of the
Millennium (featuring the characters Coggsley and Sprinx), The
Millennium Coin Minting Press in association with the
Royal Mint , the
Festival of Britain Bus, and the
Millennium Star Jewels (focus of
the failed Millennium Diamond heist . ) Outside was the Millennium Map
(thirteen metres high), the Childhood Cube, Looking Around (a hidden
installation), Greenwich Pavilion, the Hanging Gardens at the front of
the Dome, as well as a number of other installations and sculpture.
FINANCIAL AND MANAGEMENT PROBLEMS
At worst it is a millennial metaphor for the twentieth century. An
age in which all things, like the
Dome itself, became disposable. A
century in which forest and cities, marriages, animal species, races,
religions and even the Earth itself, became ephemeral. What more
cynical monument can there be for this totalitarian cocksure fragile
age than a vast temporary plastic bowl, erected from the aggregate
contribution of the poor through the National Lottery. Despite the
spin, it remains a massive pantheon to the human ego, the Ozymandias
of its time.
Bob Marshall-Andrews MP,
Sunday Times 1st February
The project was largely reported by the press to have been a flop :
badly thought-out, badly executed, and leaving the government with the
embarrassing question of what to do with it afterwards. During 2000
the organisers repeatedly asked for, and received, more cash from the
Millennium Commission , the Lottery body which supported it. Numerous
changes at management and Board level, before and during the
exhibition, had only limited, if any, results. Jennifer Page was
sacked as chief executive of the New Millennium Experience Company
just one month after the dome's opening. Press reports suggested that
the then Prime Minister
Tony Blair personally placed a high priority
on making the
Dome a success. But part of the problem was that the
financial predictions were based on an unrealistically high forecast
of visitor numbers at 12 million. During the 12 months it was open
there were approximately 6.5 million visitors – significantly fewer
than the approximately 10 million paying visitors that attended the
Festival of Britain , which only ran from May to September. Empire
Exhibition, Scotland 1938 held in Glasgow attracted more than 12
million visitors being open May to October. Unlike the press, visitor
feedback was extremely positive. It was the most popular tourist
attraction in 2000, second was the
London Eye ; third was Alton Towers
, which had been first in 1999.
According to the UK National Audit Office , the total cost of The
Dome at the liquidation of the New Millennium Experience Company in
2002 was £789 million, of which £628 million was covered by National
Lottery grants and £189 million through sales of tickets etc. A
surplus of £25 million over costs meant that the full lottery grant
was not required. However, the £603 million of lottery money was
still £204 million in excess of the original estimate of £399
million required, due to the shortfall in visitor numbers.
It was, however, still of interest to the press, the government's
difficulties in selling the
Dome being the subject of much critical
comment. The amount spent on maintaining the closed building was also
criticised. Shortly after it had closed, Lord Falconer reported that
Dome was costing over £1 million per month to maintain.
DISPERSAL OF EXHIBITS
Following closure of the Dome, some Zones were dismantled by the
sponsoring organisations, but much of the content was auctioned. This
included a number of artworks specially commissioned from contemporary
British artists. A piece by
Gavin Turk was sold for far below his then
auction price though Turk stated that he did not think the piece had
worked. The Timekeepers of the Millennium attraction was acquired by
Chessington World of Adventures theme park in
Surrey . A unique
record of the memorabilia and paraphernalia of the Millennium
Experience is held by a private collector in the United States. Many
of the fixtures and fittings were also purchased by
Paul Scally ,
Gillingham F.C. , for the club's stadium.
Despite the ongoing debate about the Dome's future use, the Dome
opened again during December 2003 for the Winter Wonderland 2003
experience. The event, which featured a large funfair , ice rink, and
other attractions, culminated in a laser and firework display on New
Year's Eve. It also served as the venue for a number of free music
festivals organised by the Mayor of
London under the "Respect" banner.
Over the 2004 Christmas period, part of the main dome was used as a
shelter for the homeless and others in need, organised by the charity
Crisis after superseding the
London Arena , which had previously
hosted the event. In 2005, when work began for the redevelopment of
the Dome, the
London Arena hosted the event again.
REDEVELOPMENT AND REBRANDING AS THE O2
The O2 Arena
By late 2000, a proposal had been made for a high-tech business park
to be erected under the tent area, creating an "indoor city" complete
with streets, parks, and buildings. The business park was actually the
original 1996 proposal for the site of the peninsula before the plans
for the Millennium
Dome were proposed.
In December 2001, it was announced that Meridian Delta Ltd. had been
chosen by the government to develop the
Dome as a sports and
entertainment centre, and to develop housing, shops and offices on 150
acres (0.61 km2) of surrounding land. It also hoped to relocate some
of London's tertiary education establishments to the site. Meridian
Delta is backed by the American billionaire
Philip Anschutz , who has
interests in oil, railways, and telecommunications, as well as a
string of sports-related investments.
A 2005 House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts report found
that the costs of the sale process of the
Dome and many acres of land
(increased to 170 acres total, after initially offering the 48 acres
enclosed by the Dome), and managing the
Dome until the deal was closed
was £28.7 million. £33 million were expected to be returned to the
taxpayer by 2009. The value of the 48 acres occupied by the
estimated at £48 million, which could have been realised by
demolishing the structure, but it was considered preferable to
preserve the Dome.
The dome was publicly renamed as The O2 on 31 May 2005, in a £6
million-per-year deal with telecommunications company O2 plc, now a
Telefónica Europe . This announcement, which presaged a
major redevelopment of the site that retained little beyond the shell
of the dome, gave publicity to the dome's transition into an
entertainment district including an indoor arena, a music club, a
cinema, an exhibition space and bars and restaurants. This
redevelopment was undertaken by the dome's new owners, the Anschutz
Entertainment Group , to a design by HOK SVE and
Buro Happold . It
cost £600 million, and the resulting venue opened to the public on 24
June 2007, with a concert by rock band
Bon Jovi .
2012 Summer Olympics
2012 Summer Olympics , the artistic gymnastics events,
along with the medal rounds of basketball, were held at The O2. It
also held wheelchair basketball events during the 2012 Summer
Paralympics . For sponsorship reasons, during those times the arena
was temporarily renamed the North Greenwich Arena.
EFFECTS ON POLITICAL CAREERS
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Issues related to the
Peter Mandelson 's and John
Prescott 's political careers. The scheme was seen as an early
example of what some saw as
Tony Blair 's often excessive optimism,
who stated at the Dome's opening: "In the
Dome we have a creation
that, I believe, will truly be a beacon to the world". The fact that
Mandelson's grandfather was
Herbert Morrison who as a minister had
been involved with the
Festival of Britain often was drawn on for
CHRONOLOGY OF THE PROJECT
Millennium Commission established by Prime Minister John
Major and handed over to
Deputy Prime Minister
Michael Heseltine .
* 1 March 1995: chief executive Jennie Page appointed.
* 19 June 1996:
Greenwich Peninsula site selected over Birmingham by
the Millennium Commission. The
Birmingham NEC , Pride Park in Derby
Bromley-by-Bow in East
London were the other locations on the
final short list.
* December 1996: Government decides to support the project with
public money after being unable to raise private capital.
* 19 June 1997: New Prime Minister
Tony Blair visits Greenwich to
announce that the Millennium
Dome has been saved. The decision was
taken only after a difficult Cabinet debate which lasted for more than
* 20 June 1997:
Tony Blair appointed
Peter Mandelson to the role of
Minister for the Millennium after his announcement that the
beleaguered £580 million dome would go ahead.
* 10 January 1998: Creative director
Stephen Bayley quits the
project. He is said to have been at "loggerheads" with Peter Mandelson
as to who was in charge with the project.
* 23 December 1998:
Peter Mandelson resigns from government after a
* 4 January 1999:
Lord Falconer of Thoroton replaces Mandelson.
* May 1999: The
Jubilee Line Extension opens, putting the
London Underground . This too is seen as disorderly, opening 14
months late and with station facilities not yet complete (e.g. lifts
for wheelchair access).
* 22 June 1999: structure of
* 31 December 1999: the
BBC Balloon was Flying during 2000 Today and
used throughout 2000.
* 31 December 1999 and 1 January 2000: VIP guests are kept waiting
outside for hours because of a ticketing problem.
* 1 January 2000:
Dome structure opens to public as the Millennium
Dome containing an exhibition to celebrate the third millennium.
* 5 February 2000: chief executive Jennie Page sacked.
* 26 July 2000: Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee publishes
adverse report on Dome's management.
* 7 November 2000: Thieves break into the diamond exhibit during
opening hours but are foiled by waiting police. Four men were jailed
for the attempted robbery on 18 February 2002.
* 9 November 2000: National Audit Office publishes report blaming
unrealistic attendance targets for the Dome's financial problems.
* 14 November 2000:
Michael Heseltine (MP for Henley), the Dome's
original political supporter, states "I have seen the inside story,
and of course, with hindsight, all of us would do it differently".
* 31 December 2000:
Dome closed to the public, having attracted just
over six million visitors. The initial projected figure was twelve
* 27 February 2001 – 2 March 2001: One Amazing
Four-day public auction with 17,000 lots of Dome/NMEC items, managed
by auctioneer Henry Butcher.
* 18 December 2001: Announcement of sale of site to Meridian Delta
Ltd, who plan to turn it into a 20,000-seat sports and entertainment
venue. Houses and offices will be built on the surrounding land,
subject to the consent of the
London Borough of Greenwich
* 6 December 2003: opening of Winter Wonderland 2003.
* 25 May 2005:
Anschutz Entertainment Group sells the naming rights
to the former Millennium
Dome to O2 plc , a British mobile phone
IN POPULAR CULTURE
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* During the political controversy surrounding the dome in 1996
Wonderbra ran an advertising campaign with the slogan 'Not all domes
lack public support'.
* Within the foundations of the
Dome in 1998, a time capsule was
Katy Hill and Richard Bacon , two of the then current
presenters of the long running
BBC children's programme
Blue Peter .
The capsule was due to be opened in 2050, but was accidentally
unearthed and damaged in 2017 during construction work. It will be
reburied once it has been repaired.
Dome was featured in a chase sequence of the 1999 James Bond
The World Is Not Enough , culminating in Bond rolling down the
roof of the Dome.
* The song "Silvertown Blues" from
Mark Knopfler 's album Sailing to
Philadelphia deals with the construction of The Dome.
* Since its construction in 1999, it has been a prominent feature in
the title sequence of the popular soap opera
EastEnders , having been
built in that area of London. During a climactic scene in October
1999, involving an argument and fight between Grant and Phil Mitchell,
Dome was a part of the background as the scene took place directly
on the opposite side of the river.
* Two books about the attempted robbery of the
De Beers diamonds
Dome were published in 2004: Diamond Geezers – The Inside
Story of the Crime of the Millennium (ISBN 1843171228 ) written by
Kris Hollington, published by Michael O'Mara Books Ltd, and Dome
Raiders – How Scotland Yard Foiled the Greatest Robbery of All Time
(ISBN 1852271949 ) written by Jon Shatford and William Doyle,
published by Virgin Books.
* Gideon\'s Daughter is a 2006
BBC television drama written and
Stephen Poliakoff , stars
Bill Nighy as a publicist
working to promote the
Dome in the run-up to its grand opening. Emily
Blunt plays the titular daughter who is disdainful of the project,
Miranda Richardson plays Gideon's love interest whose simple
observations about his life – and the
Dome – reshape Gideon's
life. Both Nighy and Blunt received Golden Globe Awards for their
performances. The show won a Peabody Award in April 2007.
The O2 (London)
The O2 Arena
Millennium Bridge (London)
Millennium Bridge Inclined Lift
A Slice of Reality
* ^ UK Consumer Price Index inflation figures are based on data
from Gregory Clark (2016), "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for
Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)", MeasuringWorth.com.
* ^ Millennium
Dome site in £44m work bonanza Construction News,
28 May 1998
* ^ Long span structures Architecture Week, 26 March 2003
* ^ Hellman, Louis (26 June 1997). "Letter: Millennium Tent".
Letters to The Independent. London. Retrieved 29 June 2009.
* ^ "House of Commons Hansard Debates 13 November 2000". Commons
Hansard Debates. 13 November 2000. Retrieved 29 June 2009.
* ^ "
Stephen Bayley on the rebirth of the Millennium Dome". The
Observer. London. 24 June 2007. Retrieved 29 June 2009.
* ^ "11 Secret Features Of Famous
London Landmarks". Londonist. 20
* ^ "Four Documentaries – Abroad Again in Britain". BBC.
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* ^ "
Dome woes haunt Blair".
BBC News. 15 February 2001. Retrieved
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* ^ Millennium Experience. p. 26. EAN 5060006651519.
* ^ Millennium Experience. p. 60. EAN 5060006651519.
* ^ SkyScape Greenwich 2000
* ^ "Timeline:
Dome diamond heist".
BBC News. 18 February 2002.
Retrieved 30 June 2008.
Sunday Times . 1st February 1998.
* ^ Off message. Bob Marshall-Andrews
* ^ Page, Jennifer (4 May 2000). "My Crown of Thorns".
guardian.co.uk. London: Guardian News and Media. Retrieved 26 July
* ^ "Winding-up the New Millennium Experience Company Limited"
(Press release). National Audit Office. 17 April 2002. Retrieved 3
* ^ "Experience". New Millennium Experience Company. Archived from
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* ^ "Legacy loses exclusive dome bidding rights". guardian.co.uk.
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* ^ "The Millennium Dome: A collection". Retrieved 4 July 2007.
* ^ Tongue, Steve (19 January 2003). "Football: He paid £1 for the
club. Now the Gills are quids in". The Independent on Sunday. Archived
from the original on 11 June 2008. Retrieved 8 November 2007.
* ^ Respect Festival 2003 The Situation
* ^ Over 30 acts to perform at respect festival\'s Comedy Dome
London Authority, 17 July 2003
* ^ Heald, Claire (24 December 2004). "
Dome hosts homeless for
BBC News. Retrieved 12 May 2010.
* ^ "Christmas services for homeless".
BBC News. 14 November 2005.
Retrieved 12 May 2010.
* ^ House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts: The regeneration
of the Millennium
Dome and associated land; Second Report of Session
2005–06, 18 July 2005
Bon Jovi open new O2 venue Archived 24 November 2010 at the
Wayback Machine . inthenews.co.uk, 25 June 2007
* ^ A B "Mandelson:
BBC News. 23 December 1998.
Retrieved 4 March 2007.
* ^ "A hollow man and an empty tent". guardian.co.uk. London:
Guardian News and Media. 7 July 2006. Retrieved 31 January 2007.
* ^ "The Dome: A Message from Tony Blair". Greenwich2000. 24
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* ^ "Millennium Dome". Retrieved 20 January 2017.
Evening Standard , 19 June 1997
Evening Standard , 20 June 1997
The Times , 10 January 1998