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Wednesday, 29 May, 2002, 12:54 GMT 13:54 UK
But what happened to the Body Zone?
The interior of the Dome during stripping
The Dome was stripped bare for sale
The Millennium Dome, still standing empty 18 months after closing, has been sold. But what happened to the much-hyped fixtures, fittings and contents of the infamous attraction?

The Body Zone was the heart of the Millennium Dome - the queues to see inside the exhibit were almost as famous as the sight of the not-quite-flesh-coloured body itself.

When the ill-fated Dome's exhibits were dismantled, the project's most famous symbol found its way not to a gallery, theme park or rock star's living room but to an ignominious end in a nearby hole in the ground.

Body Zone
The Body Zone: No queues for buyers
According to English Partnerships - which took control of decommissioning the dome site - parts of the Body Zone were used as in-fill.

"It was so huge it couldn't be sold, so it had to be dismantled," a spokesperson told BBC News Online.

Some parts of the popular display were re-used, but others were simply thrown away, says English Partnerships. "The steel was recycled and the cladding went to a licensed tip."

The decommissioning of the Dome comprised two phases - the charmingly-titled "soft strip" and the less salubrious-sounding "hard strip".

Return to lender

The "soft" part of the operation involved auctioning off everything that wasn't bolted down (and a few things that were, such as lifts and escalators) and the returning of items which had been loaned to the Dome - such as the 200m Millennium Star diamond which attracted the attentions of robbers.

The Body Zone fell victim to the "hard strip" operation, where fittings were levelled, recycled or simply dumped.

P-Y Gerbeau outside the Dome
P-Y waved goodbye when the Dome strip started
For cynical followers of the Dome's complex finances, it may come as surprise that both operations were completed at less than the cost originally budgeted for.

According to a National Audit Office report, the soft strip was expected to cost 7.5m, but came in at 6.3m.

Up to 5m of this was expected to be recouped in March 2001 with the auction of items removed from the Dome. But the withdrawal of 1,000 prime lots of high-tech kit from the sale meant only 3.5m was actually raised.

When the workers in hard hats moved into the Dome last July, their services were expected to cost as much as 14.5m, however the "hard strip" bill came to a mere 6.1m.

Strip tease

But not even this impressive budget surplus will cheer those who were opposed to the stripping - soft or otherwise - of the Dome.

Michael Heseltine, the former Tory deputy prime minister and father of the Dome project, objected to the speed with which the "internal assets" of the vast venue were removed.

He argued that leaving as much of the Dome's infrastructure in situ as possible would make it attractive to a wider array of potential buyers than if it were stripped bare.

The Dome under construction
What goes up...
The Dome's former boss, Pierre-Yves Gerbeau, was even less keen to see the levelling of the Dome's interior, at one point hoping to see the attraction reopen little changed from its appearance on 31 December 2000.

The UK Government maintained that the decommissioning plan was the correct path to take. "Carrying out the hard strip enhances the prospects of finding a long-term sustainable use," said Sally Keeble, junior minister at the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions, after the operation had been temporarily put on hold.

"Through market testing it was established that the most sellable state for the Dome was to demolish everything except the six core buildings themselves," says the English Partnerships spokesperson.

A lot of hamster

The clearing of the Dome did have its fair share of fans. Brent Pollard, owner of The Hop Farm Country Park in Kent, was "delighted" when he successfully snapped up a 6-foot-high fibreglass hamster at last year's auction for a mere 3,000.

"It's been a very useful asset for the park," Mr Pollard told BBC News Online. "Children who come to visit like to have their picture taken next to 'Milly'. We held a competition to find that name."

Giant hampster
Milly was Brent Pollard's star buy at the Dome
Mr Pollard spent more than 30,000 at the Dome auction - coming away with two lorry-loads of chairs, sculptures and the like - but Milly was the prize.

"The hamster was a very good buy, not least because of all the publicity."

It's a shame Milly couldn't work her magic for her original home.


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See also:

09 Feb 01 | Entertainment
03 Mar 01 | UK
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