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Saturday, 1 January, 2000, 21:36 GMT
Pompidou Centre reopens for 2000

Queues Queues formed early to take advantage of free entry

The Pompidou Centre in Paris has reopened its doors to the public after a multi-million dollar two-year refit for the new millennium.

Huge queues of visitors formed early in the day for the reopening, eager to take advantage of free entry for the New Year holiday weekend.

Clean up A quick spruce-up for the big re-openning
The famous "inside-out" building, with its pipework laid bare on the outside, is home to the French National Museum of Modern Art, a huge library, cinemas and a series of cavernous exhibition halls.

On New Year's morning the centre reopened its doors to the sound of fog horns and the shriek of seagulls - a reference to the building's nickname, "The Cruise Liner".

Officials say the 27-month long renovation, competed just in time for the year 2000 deadline, has given the centre increased exhibition space and, it is hoped, a new lease of life.

Cultural appeal

Renovation Renovation work closed the building for more than two years
The museum will now be able to put on show another 600 masterpieces from its 40,000-strong collection while officials say the redesigned interior will generate a wider appeal for contemporary arts.

Named after former French President Georges Pompidou - but now better known as the Beaubourg - the centre has been both loathed and admired in almost equal measure since it was first opened in 1977.

Nonetheless its bold paintwork and resolutely modern appearance on the edge of one of Paris' oldest quarters has made it one of the city's top attractions.

In its first two decades more than 145 million visitors passed through its doors - more than five times the number first predicted.

Pompidou centre Visitors will now have to pay to ride the outside escalators
But that success also threatened to be its undoing with the vast number of visitors taking an increasing toll on the building's structure.

The famous transparent escalator tubes traversing the outside of the building were once one of the city's most popular free attractions, but they became increasingly worn and unreliable through sheer weight of numbers.

Now after an $85m revamp - most of which was funded by the state - visitors will have to pay for the pleasure.

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