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Saturday, 1 January, 2000, 16:51 GMT
'River of fire' dubbed a flop
fireworks
Fireworks were spectacular - but the river of fire was not
Thousands of millennium revellers were left disappointed by a key part of the UK's millennium celebrations - a spectacular "River of Fire".

The event - in which a wall of fire had been expected to travel along London's River Thames at midnight - has been branded a damp squib.

But it was defended by organisers, including pop star Bob Geldof.

Up to three million people who gathered in the capital and millions of television viewers had hoped to see 200ft flames rising above the water and shooting along the river.

fire
The flames were short-lived
The fiery display had been due to travel at 775mph from Tower Bridge to Vauxhall Bridge in just 10.8 seconds after being launched from a string of barges.

One spectator, Chris Lansdown, who was watching from Southwark Bridge, said: "A sheet of white flames went up, maybe about 50ft high. The flames seemed to come from separate points on two or three barges.

"Then almost instantly they were overtaken by the fireworks display, so we didn't see a wall of fire.

"Everyone around us said they hadn't seen it and some people wondered whether it was still to come."

And husband and wife Rob and Chris Mansell, of Crowthorne, Berks, said: "We were disappointed. It didn't happen."

Each barge was carrying 2.5 tons of explosives as part of the plan for the flames and fireworks.

'Just as planned'

But organisers insisted that the display did take place.

However, they admitted that it may not have been what people had imagined.

A spokeswoman said: "There is no doubt that it did happen - the River of Fire was lit and it did travel down the Thames as planned.

"Unfortunately, it may not have been as people had presupposed. It was supposed to be a series of individual flames lighting up along the Thames at the same time as the millennium and that is what happened."

A spokeswoman for 10 Alps, the company responsible for the pyrotechnics, said: "It certainly was a great sight. Maybe the television pictures didn't do it justice, like the Concorde flypast, but it definitely was a great show."

Bob Geldof, chairman of 10 Alps, also hailed the display a success and said it should become an annual event.

The pop star and entrepreneur said: "Everyone seems eager to see this beautiful show continue and become a regular feature of third millennium London."

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