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David Sillito reports for BBC News
"The organisers are confident it'll be ready for the opening night"
 real 28k

The BBC's Torin Douglas reports
"There are 14 zones, all trying to combine entertainment with information and education"
 real 28k

Monday, 20 December, 1999, 09:51 GMT
Dome gets thumbs-up from visitors

Body zone Visitors will put the attractions through their paces

Members of the public have been giving their first impressions of the Millennium Dome after receiving a sneak preview of its attractions.

Organisers invited the media and families of Dome workers to Greenwich to put the exhibits and catering outlets through their paces before the paying public is admitted on 1 January 2000.

Not all the zones were ready for inspection, but early reaction to the 758m project seemed favourable.

Stunning shows will herald January 1
Guests had a variety of views on what the 14 zones at the dome have to offer.

Pippa Meller, 12, of Woking, Surrey, said: "It's just amazing and I particularly liked the Mind zone. I think the whole thing will be a great success."

Mark Fraser, 42, a self-employed man from Westerham, in Kent said: "It looks good. There's been a lot of negative publicity, but I've found it very interesting."

His wife, Cheryl described the Dome as exciting, while their daughter Carla, eight, remarked "It's so big!"

Dome organisers, the new Millennium Experience Company, described Sunday's event as more of a technical preview than a dress rehearsal.

"Thousands of people walking around and enjoying themselves is a fantastic plus for us," said NMEC's chief executive Jennie Page.

'Absolutely gobsmacked'

Ken Robinson, NMEC's operations director, said some of the Dome doors had been open all night and that had led to the inside getting cold.

But he added: "I don't think I have seen an unhappy face today. Everything went well and that gives us a great sense of relief and also a bit of pride."

Public still unsure about the Dome, say surveys
Michael Grade, chairman of NMEC's creative review group said most people had been "absolutely gobsmacked".

"They really didn't know what to expect, but I think people have had a fantastic time.

"Many said to me that the Dome had been surprisingly good. Surprise is the word I have heard used the most today."

Both the Journey zone and the Rest zone remained closed on Sunday. Journey will have an official launch on Tuesday when another 14,000 preview audience will come to the Dome.

The Rest zone is expected to be finished by the end of this week.

'Incredible spectacle'

The Queen will officially open the Dome at a glittering ceremony on New Year's Eve which will be attended by 10,000 invited guests including Tony Blair and various celebrities.

Two young choristers - including the BBC Choirboy of the Year, 13-year-old David Wigram - will be singing as Big Ben starts to chime midnight, ushering in the year 2000.

Mr Blair said last week that the Dome was an "incredible spectacle". But surveys show there is still some public unease over the millennium attraction.

Nearly six in 10 people believe the Dome is not an appropriate international symbol for Britain, according to a survey by The Sunday Telegraph.

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See also:
18 Dec 99 |  Entertainment
Beatles anthem is millennium song
14 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Dome will be ready - Blair
08 Dec 99 |  UK
Rubbish powers the Dome
06 Dec 99 |  UK
Dome unveils 'womb room'
25 Aug 99 |  UK
Picture gallery: Millennium Dome

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