The O2 Arena (temporarily the sponsor-neutral "North Greenwich Arena", during the 2012 Summer Olympics and 2012 Summer Paralympics) is a multi-purpose indoor arena located in the centre of The O2 entertainment complex on the Greenwich Peninsula in south east London.
The arena was built under the former Millennium Dome, a large dome shaped building built to house an exhibition celebrating the turn of the third millennium; as the dome shaped structure still stands over the arena, The Dome remains a name in common usage for the venue. The arena, as well as the total O2 complex, is named after its primary sponsor, the telecommunications company O2.
The O2 Arena has the second highest seating capacity of any indoor venue in the United Kingdom, behind the Manchester Arena, but took the crown of the world's busiest music arena from New York City's Madison Square Garden in 2008. The closest underground station to the venue is the North Greenwich station on the Jubilee line.
Following the closure of the Millennium Experience at the end of 2000, the Millennium Dome was leased to Meridian Delta Ltd. in December 2001, for redevelopment as an entertainment complex. This included plans for an indoor arena.
Construction of the arena started in 2003, and finished in 2007. After the interior of the dome had been largely cleared and before building work inside began, in December 2004, the dome was used as the main venue for the annual Crisis Open Christmas organised by the London based homelessness charity Crisis.
Owing to the impossibility of using cranes inside the dome structure, the arena's roof was constructed on the ground within the dome and then lifted; the arena building's structure was then built around the roof. The arena building, which houses the arena and the arena concourse, is independent from all other buildings in the O2 and houses all the arena's facilities. The arena building itself takes up 40% of the total dome structure.
The seating arrangement throughout the whole arena can be modified, similar to the Manchester Arena. The ground surface can also be changed between ice rink, basketball court, exhibition space, conference venue, private hire venue and concert venue.
The arena was built to reduce echoing, a common problem among London music venues.
Since 2009, the arena has hosted the prestigious ATP World Tour Finals, the season ending finale of men's professional tennis, featuring the top eight players in the world. In 2015 it was announced that the tournament would extend its deal to hold the tournament until 2018. The venue has hosted the event for the second longest tenure, behind only Madison Square Garden (1977–89).
During the 2012 Summer Olympics and Paralympics, the venue was referred as the North Greenwich Arena due to Olympics regulations regarding corporate sponsorship of event sites.
Since March 2013, the O2 has hosted C2C: Country to Country, Europe's largest country music festival which annually attracted over 20,000 fans from around the world. UK and Irish acts as well as up-and-coming Americans perform sets several times across various pop-up stages situated in and around the Arena, with the main stage (which hosts some of the biggest US names in the genre) being accessible only to ticket holders. The seventh C2C will be held on 8-10 March 2019.
In November 2014, the O2 Arena caused controversy when guests were prevented from bringing food on site because they represented a terror threat. However, staff reportedly said that the food was banned because the food outlets were not making enough money.
Despite being open for only 200 days per year (the equivalent of seven months), the venue sold over 1.2 million tickets in 2007, making it the third most popular venue in the world for concerts and family shows, narrowly behind the Manchester Arena (1.25 million) and Madison Square Garden in New York City (1.23 million).
As of 2015, the O2 Arena was the busiest music arena in the world in terms of ticket sales, handling 1,819,487 tickets.
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