Birmingham bitter at Millennium loss

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The Independent Online

Greenwich was officially announced as winner of the contest to stage the Millennium Exhibition yesterday, amid bitter allegations from its rival, Birmingham, that the contest had been fixed in favour of London.

The news that the Millennium Commission had picked the site south-east of the capital was leaked last week by Michael Cassidy, policy chairman of the Corporation of London, after a meeting with John Gummer, Secretary of State for the Environment.

Virginia Bottomley, Secretary of State for Heritage, yesterday paid tribute to Birmingham's bid, but said that Greenwich could provide an exciting exhibition based on the concept of time because of its position on the meridian. She pledged pounds 200m of National Lottery money for the pounds 700m plan, but approval is still conditional on the scheme's backers producing a business plan and private funding to finance the celebrations marking 2000.

Mrs Bottomley said: "The Greenwich peninsular could enable the commission to deliver a substantial legacy for London and the UK. The Millennium Exhibition would regenerate an important part of south London, it would breathe new life into a wasteland close to the heart of the capital."

There was a bitter reaction in the West Midlands to the decision to choose a derelict and polluted site in preference to the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, which already has many of the facilities needed and is at the centre of an efficient transport network.