The Millennium Dome was insolvent almost from the day it opened, the BBC has learned.
The Millennium Dome has been transformed into the O2 arena
National Archive files from the Millennium Commission, which funded the London Dome, show that on 28 January 2000 the project had run out of money.
Commissioners were told the Dome - opened to mark the new millennium - had stopped paying bills and would have to close unless more grant was given.
The then head of the commission said it was like "dancing on the edge of doom".
Mike O'Connor, head of the Millennium Commission at the time, told the BBC: "We always felt like we were dancing on the edge of doom.
"The option was give them the money they want or let it go into insolvent liquidation."
He said the funding body set many conditions for the Dome, in Greenwich, south-east London, to meet, but many had not been met.
"When they hadn't, the only option we ever had was the nuclear option of letting the project go to the wall and, in the end, that wasn't a decision my board was willing to take."
The £758m Dome closed as planned at the end of 2000 having pulled in just over half of the predicted 12 million visitors.
In 2002, a public consultation on lottery funding concluded: "There is (public) agreement that the (Millennium) Dome was a waste of good causes funds and that this project in itself has tarnished the supply of funds to large capital projects."
The Dome has now been reborn as the 20,000-seat O2 arena, which hosts concerts and sporting events.