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1999: UK prepares to celebrate millennium
Britain is gearing up to join a global party in a spectacular array of revelries to welcome in the third millennium.

The scale of the celebrations ranges from large organised events, to street parties to an evening at home watching television footage from around the world.

Despite predictions of rain, millions are expected to pack the banks of the Thames in London Thames for funfairs, music, and street entertainment from 1100GMT until 0200GMT New Year's Day.

Celebrations around the world will kick-off at 1000 GMT as the Chatham Islands, Tonga, Fiji and Kiribati experience the new millennium first.

The people of Samoa will have to wait 25 hours more as the millennium arrives there last.

In between, festivities will be staged around the world.

'River of Fire'

With Britain's capital the home of time, eyes turn to the Queen's official opening of the 758m Millennium Dome, in Greenwich, south London.

She will arrive by boat along the River Thames to join 10,000 invited guests including 6,000 members of the public - who have not all received their tickets yet.

Celebrities and politicians including Prime Minister Tony Blair will attend.

In a blow to the celebrations, the Millennium Wheel will be officially unveiled but will not take passengers due to a capsule failing a safety check.

At midnight, a 60m high "River of Fire", created by pyrotechnic candles, will light up along the Thames in 10.8 seconds - as fast as the earth rotated into a new age.

In Scotland, the Royal National Scottish Orchestra, pop group Texas, and old favourites the Bay City Rollers will perform in Edinburgh and a beacon lit at Ben Nevis.

A giant beacon will be lit in Cardiff as part of Welsh celebrations, and one in Northern Ireland.

In Liverpool, the nightclub Cream is hosting a dance party with Fat Boy Slim and Pete Tong while in Birmingham people are expected to gather in Centenary and Victoria Squares.

Celebrations in Manchester include a huge fireworks display at Castlefield.

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Firework displays are planned around the country

In Context
While many enjoyed the festivities thousands in London did not.

Revellers struggled to get home for hours as key tube stations were shut for safety reasons and central parts of the capital were cordoned off.

The Millennium Wheel - the British Airways London Eye - did not open until a month later but its subsequent success could make it a permanent feature of the capital's skyline.

Thousands suffered delays of several hours in being admitted to the Dome on Millennium Eve because of an administrative error.

It failed to attract sufficient visitors and suffered huge losses before it closed a year later.

After difficulties selling the site, the government gave it to developers for free in return for a share of any profits.

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