Column One: 'As Big Ben strikes, we go live to a cave full of virgins...'

Column One

MILLENNIUM! NO, wait, please, don't go away! I expect you, like me, have become perhaps a little bit jaded with the endless foreshadowing of the upcoming, crucial temporal moment; and perhaps, too, if we're being really honest, a little bit wistful not to have had an invitation to join Her Majesty for the Conga at the Dome to the new "really cookin' " version of the national anthem, cruelly compounded by a similar silence from Anita Roddick about her bash, where guests will be given their own tiny millennium cameras to record their own millennium dawn. But don't worry: I have good news: the telly is going to be terrific!

Yes, indeed: on Friday, 31 December, you will be able to switch your set on at 9.30am, half an hour ahead of the first dawn of 2000, in the South Pacific, and then watch celebrations here, there and everywhere without a break until 12 noon on 1 January, at which time, according to various reports, Samoa and the Samoans will mark the great event by either celebrating communion with coconuts, fire dancing, taking their clothes off or interviewing Kofi Annan.

Marvellous. Welcome to 2000 Today, the BBC's millennium broadcast, a mixture of domestic and international coverage involving at least 59 countries, pounds 70m (contributed by each country according to GDP), 78 satellites, 2,000 flaming peace lanterns over Taiwan, a Maori mountaintop call for unity led by Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, and, on Easter Island, seven virgins going into a cave with a naked man.

It's that kind of show, and, not surprisingly, the BBC is pretty excited. "The Chinese are signed up," said a spokeswoman. "We've got the Great Wall, the Taj Mahal, the Sydney Opera House, Times Square, the main geographic reference points are covered. We're still trying to work out how we get into Space, though. If Mir had still been up, we could have gone there. And we've got good icons. We'll be going to Rome for the Pope's service, South Africa for Nelson Mandela, and the Dalai Lama is looking good."

In Panama, the US is expected to hand over the canal, which seems remarkably obliging of them. And did you know that the French are going to have not one, but 12 Millennium Wheels set up along the Champs-Elysees? The Swedes, meanwhile, never ones to be left out when there's some party animalling to be done, have come up with a wedding in a church made of ice, a concert on musical instruments made of ice, and "a gigantic bottle of champagne that will emerge from the sea" (iced, presumably). Sensing that the Norwegians

wouldn't like to be beaten on this one, I asked about their slot. "Coming from an oil rig, I think," said the spokeswoman.

She also confided that John Simpson had not yet been told that Kiribati, the South Sea island from where he, Mrs Simpson and a cameraman will announce the first dawn of the new millennium, has just been declared dry.

The view from here will include, of course, the Dome. The BBC, which is co-ordinating the international coverage, took representatives from the foreign broadcasters down there for a look.

"They were gobsmacked," said the spokeswoman. The corporation will be using "every bit of kit" it has to cover events all over the country. Would Max Boyce's Welsh concert make it? "We're certainly there for the Manic Street Preachers," she said. Hmm. Time for the Big Question: Sir Cliff's Birmingham gig? "Definitely. We've got a camera backstage." I didn't like to ask about the White Heather Club.

There were optimistic noises, though, about the 2,000 Mexican folk dancers who will be parading in Los Angeles, close by the 2,000 line dancers in the San Fernando Valley. And, for anyone worried, there's no definite news yet about Jean Michel Jarre's concert at the Pyramids, although research among the broadcasters has shown they are keen to see the light show, but "not all that bothered about the music".

So: get ready to settle down and enjoy. All this and David Dimbleby, too. And if you would prefer to get out, I am able to tell you that the Millennium nightclub in Nuneaton is installing several large television screens.

This leaves only one tiny disappointment: the cave ceremony involving the seven virgins and the naked man on Easter Island seems unlikely to make it into the programme. That happens every year, apparently.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
Fifa corruption: Strip Qatar of the World Cup? Not likely

Strip Qatar of the World Cup? Not likely

But if a real smoking gun is found, that might change things, says Tom Peck
Twenty two years later Jurassic Park series faces questions over accuracy of the fictional dinosaurs in it

Tyrannosaurus wrecked?

Twenty two years on, Jurassic Park faces questions over accuracy
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
Genes greatly influence when and how many babies a woman will have, study finds

Mother’s genes play key role in decision to start a family

Study's findings suggest that human fertility is still evolving
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Rafa Benitez Real Madrid unveiling: New manager full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

Benitez full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

There were tears in the former Liverpool manager’s eyes as he was unveiled as Real Madrid coach. But the Spaniard knows he must make tough decisions if he is to succeed
England can win the Ashes – and Elvis Presley will present the urn

England can win the Ashes – and Elvis will present the urn

In their last five Test, they have lost two and drawn two and defeated an India side last summer who thought that turning up was competing, says Stephen Brenkley
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)