Business warms to a home at Dome

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The Independent Online
WITH 200 days to go until the grand opening, the creators of the Dome revealed its attractions to the world yesterday, outlining details of each of the 14 zones that will make up the New Millennium Experience.

Stink bombs, bungee jumping, a giant national self-portrait, a voyage through space and a giant sewage pipe will be among the attractions on offer under the biggest roof in the world. Visitors, who will pay pounds 57 for a family ticket, will be able to "play at being a tycoon" in the Money zone, discover the worst smell of the millennium inside the Learning zone, marvel at the electrical cable "nerves" of the Body zone, or soothe away their troubles within the rainbow at the Rest zone.

But yesterday, at Greenwich, south London, on the biggest building site in Britain, only the skeletal exterior of the Body zone gave any clue to the varied attractions. Faith, Money, Work - some zones seemed to reflect the qualities required to turn the mass of iron girders and dust into the promised "awe-inspiring" miracle.

But Michael Grade, chairman of the creative review group, and Jennie Page, New Millennium Experience chief executive, were confident it would be ready, with the main structure up by September. "We are quite satisfied that we have plenty of time to do everything we need to do," Ms Page said.

The catchword of the day was positive. A computer-generated series of film images, which took dignitaries and journalists on a journey through the zones, was peppered with enthusiastic comments from the public. No one displayed any cynicism, although organisers appeared aware of various attacks levelled against theproject. Lord Falconer of Thoroton, who took over from Peter Mandelson as minister responsible for the pounds 758m Dome, insisted it would provide a "lasting legacy" without ever having to call on taxpayers' pounds.

Yesterday, as three more sponsors joined the team - Barclays, the insurers CGU and NatWest Group - the support from business was evident. The Dome has exceeded its sponsorship target of pounds 150m by pounds 7m and is still "in discussion" with potential donors.

The heavyweight companies supporting the project were much in evidence at the presentation, with The McDonald's Our Town Story Theatre, Marks & Spencer's Self-Portrait, British Airways and the airport authority BAA's Home Planet and the Talk zone sponsored by BT.

Ms Page denied the Dome was turning into the world's biggest trade fair. "This is not going to be logo-land," she said,but added: "If a sponsor has a product that is integral to the storyline of the zone, then that product may well be featured." Organisers have begun to recruit hundreds of hosts as well as the 160 artistes who will perform the central display.

Yesterday the organisers would say only that the bungee jumping spectacular would focus around a "dramatic love story". Elsewhere, at Shepperton Studios, filming began on the special episode of the comedy television programme Blackadder that will entertain guests within the Skyscape.