China wants to buy Dome

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The Independent Online
AS THE deadline expires today for tenders to buy the Millennium Dome, China remains among those bidding, despite the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade last weekend.

Plans for a huge trade centre have been drawn up by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Co- operation in conjunction with the Peking trading company, China Information. It is one of about 50 proposals, in the form of completed questionnaires, submitted to the regeneration agency English Partnerships and the New Millennium Experience Company.

The deadline is 5pm. A shortlist of candidates will be made public in the autumn and detailed financial propositions will be submitted in the winter.

The Dome will be handed over to whoever wins the tender - which will be decided by the Government - in the spring of 2001. The New Millennium Experience exhibition at the Dome closes on 31 December 2000. A price has not yet been put on the Dome but bids are expected to be in the pounds 100m range. While the whole project, including the running costs, will total pounds 758m, the construction bill for the Dome was about pounds 50m.

English Partnerships declined to say how many organisations and individuals had expressed an interest in the Dome but it is likely to be less than the 65 who have already filled out the questionnaire. "It's not quantity but quality we are looking for," said John Walker, competition director.

Among those known to have expressed an interest is the neighbouring football club, Charlton Athletic. "It's only just down the road and if we need to expand then it would be the ideal site," said a spokeswoman. Orlando Oliver, a 20-year-old architectural student, has submitted a plan to turn the Dome "into a place for London, like Trafalgar Square, but where you don't get rained on".