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Thursday, 28 December, 2000, 13:00 GMT
The Dome: Reasons to be cheerful 1 - 2 - 3

Everyone seems to have had a downer on the Millennium Dome all year. But even a Blockhead can see that there IS a bright side.

Part 1 It could have been worse

It could, really.

OK, OK, the costs did get out of hand. It set out needing 399 million of Lottery money; that increased by 57%. In the end it needed 628 million. Which is a lot of jackpots. Or more than 11 for each man, woman and child - before they actually set foot in Greenwich. (Tickets were an extra 20 for adults or 16.50 for children).

Good news
The building is now going to become a hothouse for hi-tech start-ups...
And OK, the visitor numbers were nowhere near what had been projected. The 12 million figure was established before it was decided what would be inside, how much it would cost to visit, how it was going to be advertised, or even if visitors would be able to drive their cars there.
Bad news
... Nobody fancies putting their money into hi-tech start-ups

BUT putting all that to one side, the constant refrain of the Dome's defenders has been that most people who have been there have really enjoyed it.

The New Millennium Experience Company's one unquestionable achievement was that it got the thing built and ready in time for the biggest unbreakable deadline of all. Had it not been finished by New Year's Eve 1999, there would have been a rash of soul-searching newspaper critics asking: "Can we actually build anything any more?"

And as for visitor numbers - it is now thought 6.5 million will have visited the Dome by the time it shuts.

Part 2 The peace dividend

This is a phrase denoting the good uses things can be put to after wartime - swords into ploughshares, that sort of thing. And in the same way there will be lasting benefits to the country because of the Dome.

Good news
Some of the aerial acrobats are planning to set up their own circus

Before the decision was taken to build it, the peninsula on which it is sited was a disused gasworks, rotten with contamination. English Partnerships cleaned the whole thing up for about 150m, meaning what had been a useless bit of land in the heart of London is now usable again. It is claimed the project has done much to revive the local economy.
Bad news
They are reported to be waiting for 54,000 European funds to set it up

The Jubilee Line extension now goes some way to complete the London Underground picture, connecting parts of the east of London which were out on a limb. The new stations have been widely praised as outstanding examples of modern design. And what about the Dome itself? Every capital city needs its landmarks. Although the image of the Dome is tainted for many, it is undeniably an impressive sight on the skyline.

A stilted performance
And there are all the skills that have been learnt in the last year. The designing, building and running of the Dome has given thousands of people experience of difficult jobs. For instance, not many people can juggle while bungee jumping on stilts, but when the Dome shuts there will be dozens of trained circus acrobats looking for opportunities to entertain.

Part 3 Lessons learned

The biggest lesson Prime Minister Tony Blair says has been learned from the Dome is that the government should not get involved in running events of this type.

Good news
For the staff who have tried to remain positive for 12 excruciating months - the end is in sight
The public spending watchdog, the National Audit Office, pinpointed a number of things which should be done differently - some of which may seem obvious to an outsider.

Bad news
For newspapers who have revelled in having something new to fill pages with - the end is in sight
They included: work out what is going to be inside attractions before you make projections of visitor numbers; when working out costs, include everything you can think of; and remember that this is a difficult business.

Best of all, though, was this: "Managers may find it difficult to respond to major unforeseen events unless they have already developed crisis plans. This is not planning for failure. It is planning to make the best of a bad situation, should it arise."

Or, as generations of cub scouts know it, Be Prepared.

Have you got any other suggestions for Good News/Bad News at the Dome? If you have, e-mail them to us at

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