The Millennium Dome, also 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. 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, however, and it is now a key
exterior feature of The O2. The
passes the western edge
and the nearest
Underground station is North
Greenwich on the Jubilee line.
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
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
Dome of Discovery built for the
Festival of Britain
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
Sir Robert McAlpine and Laing Management. The building structure
was engineered by 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
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 was conceived, originally on a somewhat smaller
scale, under 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
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
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.
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.
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):
Who we are:
Body, sponsored by Boots, supported by
L'Oréal and Roche (Branson
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 & Spencer (Caribiner with
Lorenzo Apicella at Pentagram), sculpture design by Gerald Scarfe
What we do:
Work, sponsored by
Manpower Inc. (WORK)
Learning, sponsored by
Richard Rogers Partnership)
Play (Land Design Studio)
Talk, sponsored by
BT Group (Imagination Group)
Money, sponsored by the City of
London (Caribiner with Bob Baxter at
Journey, sponsored by
Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company (Imagination Group)
Where we live:
Shared Ground, was made from recycled card sponsored by Camelot
Group plc (WORK)
Living Island (WORK)
Home Planet, sponsored by
British Airways and
BAA plc (Park Avenue
Many of the Zones were perceived as lacking in content. The Journey
Zone, outlining the history and development of transport, was one of
the few singled out for praise.
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 & Forth was shown in Skyscape (a separate cinema
on the site sponsored by BSkyB). There was also the
Town Story project in which each Local Education Authority in the UK
was invited to perform a show of their devising which characterised
their area and its people.
As well as the above, the first ever series of
Techno Games was filmed
there and shown on
BBC Two the same year.
An aircraft preparing to take off from
London City Airport, with the
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
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
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 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.[citation
needed] 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
Tony Blair personally placed a high priority on making
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 The
Dome was costing over £1 million per month
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.[clarification needed] 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
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"
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,
London Arena hosted the event again.
Redevelopment and rebranding as The O2
Interior of 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 report in 2005 by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee
found that the cost of the process of selling the
Dome and surrounding
land (which increased to 170 acres from the initial offering of 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. 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.
During the 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
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (April
Issues related to the
Dome damaged 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
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 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 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
Lord Falconer of Thoroton replaces Mandelson.
May 1999: The
Jubilee Line Extension
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
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
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.
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 buried
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
Dome was featured in a chase sequence of the 1999
James Bond film
The World Is Not Enough, culminating in Bond rolling down the roof of
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, 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 diamonds from
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
– 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, stars
Bill Nighy as a publicist working to
Dome in the run-up to its grand opening.
Emily Blunt plays
the titular daughter who is disdainful of the project, while 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
Crossings of the River Thames
Tunnels underneath the River Thames
Retail Price Index
Retail Price Index inflation figures are based on data from
Clark, Gregory (2017). "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for
Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved
November 6, 2017.
Dome - Designing Buildings Wiki".
www.designingbuildings.co.uk. Retrieved 2 October 2017.
Dome site in £44m work bonanza Construction News, 28 May
^ Long span structures Architecture Week, 26 March 2003
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The Independent. London. Retrieved 29 June 2009.
^ "House of Commons Hansard Debates 13 November 2000". Commons Hansard
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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
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Dome woes haunt Blair".
BBC News. 15 February 2001. Retrieved 31
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^ Millennium Experience. p. 60. EAN 5060006651519.
^ SkyScape Greenwich 2000
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 2008.
^ "Winding-up the New Millennium Experience Company Limited" (Press
release). National Audit Office. 17 April 2002. Retrieved 3 January
^ "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
^ "Legacy loses exclusive dome bidding rights". guardian.co.uk.
London: Guardian News and Media. 15 February 2001. Retrieved 3 May
^ "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 Archived 7 February 2009 at the Wayback
Machine. The Situation
^ Over 30 acts to perform at respect festival's Comedy
28 July 2012 at the Wayback Machine. Greater
London Authority, 17 July
^ 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
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
^ "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. Archived from the original on 3 November 2006. Retrieved 2 March
^ "Millennium Dome". Retrieved 20 January 2017.
^ Evening Standard, 19 June 1997
^ Evening Standard, 20 June 1997
^ The Times, 10 January 1998
^ Birmingham Post, 14 November 2000
Blue Peter time capsule dug up 33 years early". 2 February 2017.
Retrieved 2 February 2017.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Millennium Dome.
Aerial view of the Millennium
Dome Bing Maps
Aerial view of the Millennium
Dome Google Maps
Dome at Structurae
The Millennium Dome: A Collection Dome2000 – One individual's
collection of Millennium
Photos from Ground Up (1997–2000) O2MillenniumDome.co.uk – Early
website devoted to the Millennium
Dome with pictures from ground
excavation through the build
Greenwich MM — MEX — The
Dome — The O2 On-going site that
documents the run up to the MEX and, now, to the O2
The Millennium Dome,
London Paul's Panoramas – Panoramic view of the
Dome interior during the 2000 exhibition (requires java-enabled
Miss World Venue