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The BBC's Guto Harri reports
"Ministers have always been sensitive to questions raised about the Dome"
 real 28k

Saturday, 22 January, 2000, 19:54 GMT
Superman boost for Dome

Reeve met some of the Millennium Show dancers

Film star Christopher Reeve, who shot to fame playing Superman, has come to the rescue of the much-criticised Millennium Dome in London.

The 47-year-old actor, who was paralysed after falling from a horse five years ago, visited the attraction on Saturday during a fund-raising trip to the UK.

Ministers deny reports of "crisis talks"
His morale-boosting visit comes amid reports that staff may be axed to cut costs in light of disappointing attendances.

Reeve saw a display of dance and gymnastics at the Dome and said afterwards: "It was overwhelming - a feast through the eyes and ears. I do not know how long it took to put together but it was amazing."

The 758m project needs to attract an average of 20,000 visitors a day to break even over the year, but so far less than half that number have been going through the turnstiles.

The New Millennium Experience Company, which operates the Greenwich attraction, had admitted there were "contingency plans", which could include staff cuts.

But on Saturday a union official representing most of the 2,000 Dome staff said bosses had since given a "categorical assurance" no lay-offs were planned.

'Facing millennium dole'

Dan Hodges, of the GMB union, said: "Our members have been looking forward to spending the coming year working in and promoting the Millennium Dome.

"They were obviously alarmed to wake up this morning to hear that they were facing the millennium dole."

He said: "Those who are making it their life's work to criticise the Dome should be aware that there are thousands of jobs riding on its success or failure."

Hodges: Staff feared millennium dole
Earlier, Downing Street had dismissed as "fiction" reports that the attendance figures had prompted ministers to hold crisis talks about the Dome's future.

A spokesman said ministers had always expected attendance figures in January and February to be lower than those later in the year.

Private dinner

Reeve, who visited the Dome with his wife Dana, 39, son Will, seven, and daughter Alexandra, 16, flew to Britain last week in his first trip abroad since the accident.

His main purpose was to speak at a private fund-raising dinner in aid of his Christopher Reeve Foundation, which is conducting research into spinal injuries.

Lower attendance at least means shorter queues
He also met a Berlin-based specialist who looked at his condition.

During the Dome trip Reeve gave a press conference saying that he hoped to walk again within three years.

He said it was his sheer competitiveness which drove him on in his long fight back from injury.

"I compete with myself all the time," he said.

Reeve said that in this way, he had regained full - if weakened - use of his diaphragm, even though he had previously been told he would never breathe unaided again.

Internet millionaires attacked

Reeve, who shot to worldwide fame in 1978 when he took the title role in Superman, has concentrated on raising cash for research into his condition since his accident.

On Saturday he attacked "stock market and internet millionaires" for not investing enough of their fortune into research.

Reeve accompanied by daughter Alexandra
He said: "They literally have more money than they know what to do with. There are too many young millionaires isolating themselves from society, with no sense of charity."

His foundation recently announced it had developed two drugs capable of reducing the impact of spinal injuries.

He took his first tentative steps since his accident last year, and also made an award-winning movie comeback in a TV remake of the classic Alfred Hitchcock thriller Rear Window.

Reeve, who returns to the US on Monday, said he was looking forward to meeting about 45 old friends during his final day in the UK on Sunday.

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See also:
22 Jan 00 |  Health
Reeve: I'll walk in three years
17 Jan 00 |  UK
Dome's future up for grabs
15 Jan 00 |  UK
Charles in Dome storm
09 Jan 00 |  UK
Media 'Dome vendetta' attacked

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