Stansted to get a makeover for 2000

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LONDON'S third airport, Stansted, could be renamed the "Millennium International" as part of the celebrations for the year 2000.

News of the makeover came as it emerged that the Dome being erected in Greenwich may be moved to a new site when the exhibition is finished.

Internal documents at the British Airports Authority show that unglamorous Stansted will be titled "The Millennium Gateway", and will be "a focal point for additional air travel/charters etc to the Dome". The authority is also considering a full name change under which Stansted would become "Millennium International".

BAA's pounds 3m support package will include support for a project within the Dome and retitling the National Youth Games (to be run in partnership with the English Sports Council), the "Millennium Youth Games".

The authority believes that the move makes commercial sense because the Dome could produce more air traffic and help to raise awareness of Stansted, north east of London in Essex.

This week the Prime Minister will launch a presentation of the contents of the Dome, announcing a pounds 12m sponsorship from British Telecom. His office denied suggestions that the Dome will only have a short lifespan. Although the roof fabric is likely to last only 25 years it could be replaced and the whole structure could be moved elsewhere in the country at the end of the exhibition, Downing Street said.

Mr Blair will give the controversial pounds 758m project his personal backing, declaring: "The time for carping is over and the time to support a great national endeavour has arrived."

In a move which will directly identify Mr Blair with the project, the Prime Minister will declare that the Dome is good for business, tourism and "this country's place and standing in the world".

The audience will include business leaders involved with the project including Sir Peter Bonfield, chief executive of BT, and Sir John Egan, chief executive of BAA.

In all, the Dome will have 12 themed "zones", one of which will be sponsored by BT. Others have yet to be financed although the Government will not say how many remain without any backing. Mr Blair is said to be confident the bandwagon will get rolling behind the project despite early criticism of the cost of the Dome, which is being masterminded by Peter Mandelson, Minister without Portfolio.