The Info List - Millennium Dome

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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
Common Era
. Located on the Greenwich Peninsula
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
Prime Meridian
passes the western edge of the Dome
and the nearest London
Underground station is North Greenwich on the Jubilee line
Jubilee line


* 1 Construction * 2 Background to the Dome

* 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
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 the Festival of Britain
Festival of Britain
in 1951.

The architect was Richard Rogers
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 engineered by Buro Happold
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
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.

The critic 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 sludge from 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 of London
and south of the River Thames
River Thames
, an area initially called the East Thames Corridor but latterly marketed as the " Thames Gateway ".


The Dome
project was conceived, originally on a somewhat smaller scale, under John Major
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
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 (Profile Books: 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
The O2 Arena
has now undertaken.


The Millennium Dome
Show The Millennium Dome
at night, September 2000

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 brain exhibit.

The interior space was subdivided into 14 zones (with the lead designers of the zones):


* BODY, sponsored by Boots, supported by L\'Oréal and Roche (Branson Cortes Architecture ) * MIND, sponsored by BAE Systems
BAE Systems
and Marconi (Office of Zaha Hadid
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
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
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 Dome
and Canary Wharf
Canary Wharf
in the background. (December 2014)

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 1951 Festival of Britain
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.


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
Sunday Times
1st February 1998

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
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
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 The Dome
was costing over £1 million per month to maintain.


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 the Chessington World of Adventures
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 , chairman of 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.


Interior of The O2 Arena
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 Dome
was 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 subsidiary of Telefónica Europe
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
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 .

During the 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.


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Issues related to the Dome
damaged Peter Mandelson
Peter Mandelson
's and John Prescott 's political careers. The scheme was seen as an early example of what some saw as Tony Blair
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
Festival of Britain
often was drawn on for negative comparisons.


* 1994: 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
Greenwich Peninsula
site selected over Birmingham by the Millennium Commission. The Birmingham NEC , Pride Park in Derby and 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
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 an hour. * 20 June 1997: Tony Blair
Tony Blair
appointed Peter Mandelson
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
Peter Mandelson
resigns from government after a financial scandal. * 4 January 1999: Lord Falconer of Thoroton replaces Mandelson. * May 1999: The Jubilee Line Extension opens, putting the Dome
on 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 Dome
completed. * 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 million. * 27 February 2001 – 2 March 2001: One Amazing Auction
Sale: 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
Anschutz Entertainment Group
sells the naming rights to the former Millennium Dome
to O2 plc , a British mobile phone company.


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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 buried by Katy Hill and Richard Bacon , two of the then current presenters of the long running BBC
children's programme Blue Peter
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. * The Dome
was featured in a chase sequence of the 1999 James Bond film The World Is Not Enough
The World Is Not Enough
, culminating in Bond rolling down the roof of the Dome. * The song "Silvertown Blues" from Mark Knopfler
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, the 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
De Beers
diamonds from the 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 directed by Stephen Poliakoff
Stephen Poliakoff
, stars Bill Nighy
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, while Miranda Richardson
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 (London)
* The O2 Arena
The O2 Arena
* London
Eye * Millennium Bridge (London) * Millennium Bridge Inclined Lift * A Slice of Reality * Tensile architecture
Tensile architecture


* ^ 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 October 2015. * ^ "Four Documentaries – Abroad Again in Britain". BBC. Retrieved 10 August 2011. * ^ " Dome
woes haunt Blair". BBC
News. 15 February 2001. Retrieved 31 January 2007. * ^ http://www.politicsresources.net/area/uk/e01/man/con/manifesto_uk.pdf p.43 * ^ 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
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 2008. * ^ "Winding-up the New Millennium Experience Company Limited" (Press release). National Audit Office. 17 April 2002. Retrieved 3 January 2007. * ^ "Experience". New Millennium Experience Company. Archived from the original on 24 June 2007. Retrieved 4 July 2007. * ^ "Legacy loses exclusive dome bidding rights". guardian.co.uk. London: Guardian News and Media. 18 December 2001. Retrieved 3 May 2008. * ^ "Legacy loses exclusive dome bidding rights". guardian.co.uk. London: Guardian News and Media. 15 February 2001. Retrieved 3 May 2008. * ^ "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 Greater London
Authority, 17 July 2003 * ^ Heald, Claire (24 December 2004). " Dome
hosts homeless for Christmas". 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
Wayback Machine
. inthenews.co.uk, 25 June 2007 * ^ A B "Mandelson: Dome
alone". 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 February 1998. Retrieved 2 March 2007. * ^ "Millennium Dome". Retrieved 20 January 2017. * ^ Evening Standard , 19 June 1997 * ^ Evening Standard