It’s tempting to bask in the success of the re-branded O2 and write off the building’s seven year existence as useless white elephant de nos jours as a bad dream. Unfortunately, that was no nightmare, and it seems that financially the Millennium Dome never stood a chance.
The assembled politicians and VIPs had barely clunked their awkward way through Auld Lang Syne on December 31st, 1999, before the whole project was skint. Newly released documents from the National Archives reveal that the money ran out on the 28th of January 2000, only a month into the Dome’s less than memorable year-long exhibition.
A National Audit Office report in 2002 blamed the Dome’s financial problems on overestimated visitor numbers – 12 million were expected, but only 6.5 million showed up – yet the new report casts doubt on that rationale. The head of the Millennium Commission, the fiscal muscle behind the project, described the Dome as “dancing on the edge of doom” as more and more money was pumped in to rescue it. Talk like that is hardly likely to inspire confidence in the government’s ability to mastermind large scale projects, like, say, the 2012 Olympics.
Still, the Dome has been successfully reborn as the O2, and we hope that lessons have been learned. And, hey, even if the 2012 stadium isn’t quite ready on time, we can look forward to 2019 when it will doubtlessly be transformed into a fine live music venue.
Image of the Dome / O2 from lewishamdreamer’s Flickrstream