Dome's `brave new world' unveiled

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The Independent Online
THE BRAVE new world that is the Millennium Dome will have Boots the Chemist in charge of the body, defence and arms companies in charge of the mind and McDonald's hamburgers overseeing the local high street.

And with just 400 days to go there is still no guarantee that the train service to get you there will be running.

It all sounds curiously like pre-millennial Britain.

But as the Millennium Dome organisers yesterday, at last, unveiled the contents, design and commercial sponsors for the Dome, they euphorically promised that "12 million people will see the world's greatest exploration of who we are and where we are going in the new millennium".

They will also see that the new millennium human frame does indeed have private parts. A 90ft-high figure of a Henry Moore-style reclining couple in a gentle embrace will form The Body, the main attraction of the pounds 758m Dome, the organisers having evidently decided against the earlier confusingly genderless symbol of the new millennium.

Visitors can enter The Body and take an escalator ride up the male's right arm and into the central area. Inside they will hear and see the sights and sounds of the human body.

Mr Blair and Mr Mandelson frown upon the use of the phrase "theme park"; and it was carefully avoided yesterday. But the descriptions from the New Millennium Experience Company, which is overseeing the project, used a language that was a mixture of Science Museum, Disney and the big top.

"In the centre of the Dome itself," they said, "the awe-inspiring live Millennium show will run up to six times a day featuring acrobatics, trapeze artists, stilt-walking and abseiling. Great music, stunning visual effects and a cast drawn from 160 performers will stun visitors ... Visitors will spend most of their time exploring the 14 themed exhibition zones."

And if all that leaves you hungry, there will certainly be McDonald's outlets on the Dome site. The fast-food company was one of the sponsors announced yesterday with a glee that attempted without success to disguise the fact that six zones still have no sponsor, although negotiations are continuing on the Spirit zone with the Hinduja brothers, who are millionaire philanthropists.

The involvement of major defence companies was challenged by one MP. Liberal Democrat Norman Baker said: "GEC aren't supposed to be there out of the goodness of their own hearts. They are there because they want to promote GEC. It is becoming something of a trade fair."

Jennifer Page, chief executive of the New Millennium Experience Company, responded: "All the sponsors of the Dome will be companies which are household names ... I think there are many technologies, many commercial activities, we should be proud of as a nation. We are not going to be dealing in any sense with issues concerning defence policy or defence issues."

Lord Simpson, chief executive of GEC, added: "We aim to bring to life the way innovative electronic engineering extends the reach of the mind."

The Mind zone has been designed by the architect- designer Zaha Hadid and visitors to this section can have a brain scan that will show them which areas of the brain they are using. They will also be able to interact with robots.

Ms Page also promised that there would be "quite a lot of music" both inside and outside the Dome. And Michael Grade, chairman of the Millennium Experience Creative Review Group, added: "We would ignore [pop music] at our peril."

Tickets for the Dome are expected to cost about pounds 20.

Ms Page said that her company had pounds 120m of the pounds 150m sponsorship needed, and added she was in "no doubt that full sponsorship will be achieved".

She was also confident that the behind-schedule London Underground Jubilee Line extension, which is intended to carry more than two in five of visitors to and from the Dome, would be ready for the 31 December 1999 opening.

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