Myths and mystery unravelled around minister's pet project

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The Independent Online
PETER Mandelson yesterday admitted there was a need to "nail the myths" about the Dome which have led to doubts about the wisdom of pouring pounds 750m it, writes Colin Brown. Here are some issues on which the "Dome Minister" will try to convince the public the Dome is worth it, and is not destined to become "Mandy's disaster".

Q: What is it for?

A: The theme is "Time to Make a Difference". Mr Mandelson says it will be "an opportunity for people to reflect, to take stock, to consider what sort of society we live and how we live and how we work, rest and play ..."

Q: What will it contain?

A: Details are to be unveiled by Tony Blair tomorrow but it will have at least nine zones - a work zone, including a valley of ladders tracing career paths of the future; rest zone, with a dream-sequence ride, in which visitors lie on beds; play zone, featuring a new specially designed game called Surfball ... a local zone, showing a different town each day, with Stirling as the first, and the body zone, featuring a 320ft human figure with a child surrounded by toys, so huge that tourists will be able to tour the internal organs.

Q: Is it taking taxpayer's money?

A: According to Mr Mandelson it is going to take "at the most" pounds 400m from the National Lottery; pounds 150m will come from sponsorship by firms, and pounds 190m from gate receipts.

Q: How much will it cost to get in?

A: Around pounds 17.50 a head but there are rumours of concessions for local residents in Greenwich.

Q: How many are expected to turn up?

A: Around 12 million in total, or 35,000 at any one time, but it could be higher in five-hour sessions, three times a day.

Q: How do you get there?

A: Jubilee Line Underground link from Central London, which has been beset by delays and disputes, but Mr Mandelson promised it will be open by the end of 1999; there will also be Thames cruises; plans are in for a park-and-ride system. Stansted Airport, where Dome charter flights will land, is to be renamed Millennium Gateway.

Q: Will the Dome be torn down after a year?

A: The Dome is planned to be permanent. The Government changed the fabric cover of the Dome from PVC to Teflon. The Millennium Experience will last a year but it could be extended.

Q: What happens to the Dome when the show is over?

A: Tony Banks, sports minister, wants to turn it into a football stadium for the London bid for the Olympics. Two organisations are bidding to take it over. It could be sold to private firms for a permanent exhibition. Got any bright ideas for the Dome - it is 330ft high, has 12 masts, and covers an area the size of four Trafalgar Squares? Send them to Peter Mandelson.