Politics: Mandelson: 'Nothing will touch dome experience'

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The Millennium Dome will be a once in a lifetime experience with a chapel attached. David Lister hears the minister responsible explain his vision.

Peter Mandelson, the government minister with responsibility for the Millennium Dome, told a select committee of MPs yesterday it would be a "once in a lifetime experience. Nothing else will equal it or follow it.

"It will not," he said, "be a tacky theme park or a one-year white elephant. It's a chance for people to think about themselves and society and have a jolly good time doing it."

Asked whether the dome would acknowledge the religious significance of 2000, he said: "An element of spirituality is very important to introduce into the experience. Part of the outer ring of the dome will be about the body, the mind and the soul. The creation of a chapel within the dome is a possibility."

For the first time the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee were given an inkling of what the contents of the exhibition inside the dome will actually be, though full details will not be given before the new year.

A written submission to the committee prepared by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, said the dome was intended to be "a spectacular and emotional performance combining live action, multi- media and special effects ... an adventure story based on the theme of time."

It went on to say: "Vast three-dimensional objects, combining the latest in multi media environments and the cutting edge of thinking and research, will be brought together to create the most ambitious single exhibition ever conceived."

There were also initial plans to link the Greenwich site electronically to schools across the country.

Mr Mandelson said there would be rides for children and adults and interactive attractions such as "Play Surfboard" - though the Committee was left little wiser as to what such a game actually entailed.