Another project to celebrate the new Millennium, the O2 – originally known as the Millennium Dome – is the largest domed structure in the world.
Occupying a prominent site at the northern tip of the Greenwich Peninsula (on the south bank of the River Thames), the building is 365 metres in diameter, 50 metres high at its highest point and features 12 100 metre high masts which hold up the Teflon-coated glass fibre dome using some 45 miles of steel cable.
It was designed by Sir Richard Rogers and his firm with construction commencing in 1997 after the project, conceived by the Conservative Government, was endorsed (and expanded) by the new Blair Labour Government.
The Dome was officially opened on 31st December, 1999, at a ‘New Millennium Spectacular’ attended by, among others, members of the Royal Family and government.
Throughout the following year the venue hosted what was known as the ‘Millennium Experience’, a celebration of the beginning of the new millennium which attracted more than six million visitors (a big figure but apparently only half of what was projected initially).
A controversial project since its very inception due to its cost and speculation about its use after the year 2000, the facility was largely devoid of life for several years after the year 2000 (apart from a few major events) but the site, which was eventually sold to consortium Meridian Delta Ltd which turned to then consortium member the Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) to oversee the transformation of the facility into a sports and entertainment complex.
The building, rebranded O2 following a deal with the telco company of the same name, reopened in 2007 (the first band to play there in a public show was Bon Jovi and more than 600 bands had played there as of last year) and has since been used for a range of events including music concerts and sports, the latter including some of the indoor sports played at the 2012 Olympic Games including gymnastics and basketball.
As well as a more than 20,000 seat sports arena, the O2 now features music venues, a cinema, bars, restaurants and shops as well as an exhibition space. There’s also a 90 minute climb over the top of the Dome for the adventurous.
More than 60 million people visited the O2 since it opened in 2007.
WHERE: O2, Greenwich Peninsula (nearest Tube station is North Greenwich); WHEN: 9am to 1am daily; COST: Various; WEBSITE: www.theo2.co.uk
• Queen Elizabeth II this week unveiled the final plaque marking the end of the 37 mile/60 kilometre Jubilee Greenway in front of Buckingham Palace. The circular Greenway – marked by 542 glass plaques – has been created to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. It can be walked or cycled and takes in key sites around London, including Kensington Palace, Regent’s Park, the Thames Barrier and Olympic sites including Greenwich Park (equestrian events), the O2 Arena (hosting gymnastics, trampoline and basketball events) as well as the main stadium at Olympic Park. The Greenway is divided into 10 sections and you can download either the entire walk or brochures for one of the sections only here.
• This weekend sees the Barbican Centre play host to the event known as ‘Barbican Weekender’ – two days of free art, dance, music, theatre and film at the Barbican Foyers. Part of London 2012 Festival, the event’s ‘Freestage’ programme features Roxxxan,Dizralie and the Small Gods, young drummers from East London and performance poetry by the Barbican Young Poets. There’s also street dance classes with Boy Blue Entertainment, the chance to make an Opera in a Day with the Hip Hop Shakespeare Company, a Digital Graffiti wall, street food stalls, the Wah Nails Pop-Up boutique and free running by Streets United. For more, see www.barbican.org.uk/weekender.
• On Now – Measuring the Universe: from the Transit of Venus to the edge of the cosmos. Marking the 2012 transit of Venus, this exhibition at the Greenwich Observatory follows the story of man’s ongoing quest to understand the vastness of space, looking at the people and technologies involved in seeing farther than ever before – from the Astronomer Royal, Edmond Halley, to Captain James Cook and Edwin Hubble and through to the possibilities offered by the Cosmic Microwave Background Explorer. It’s accompanied by a series of talks, observing events – including this month’s Daytime Sky Watch sessions – and a planetarium show. Runs until 2nd September. Admission is free. For more information, see www.rmg.co.uk.