The Dome regrets that New Year's Eve has been cancelled

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The Independent Online

The storm over the finances of the Millennium Dome has claimed another casualty. Plans for a celebrity-packed closing party on New Year's Eve have been quietly dropped.

The storm over the finances of the Millennium Dome has claimed another casualty. Plans for a celebrity-packed closing party on New Year's Eve have been quietly dropped.

Instead, the last day of the year will be as quiet as any other down at Greenwich. The Dome will close its doors at 8pm without any of the champagne-fuelled celebrations that marked its first night.

This will be a far cry from last New Year's lavish gala opening ceremony hosted by the Queen and Tony Blair, which was attended - despite the problems with ticketing that held up 3,000 people - by 10,500 special guests and dignitaries. Then, the Dome was the focus of the nation's millennium party, the centrepiece for "one amazing night". Combined with the "Big Time" fireworks display and the lacklustre "river of fire" along the Thames, it eventually all cost £4.3m.

The world's biggest tent opened with performances from Mick Hucknall of Simply Red, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Corrs, Heather Small from M People and the actor Stephen Fry. During all the millennial merriment, Her Majesty even held hands with Mr Blair for the ritual Auld Lang Syne singalong.

But this year, the most the Dome's operators expect is a couple of business executives shaking hands, as the New Millennium Experience Company makes way for the Japanese bank Nomura International.

After being forced to apply for another £47m from the Millennium Commission to stave off bankruptcy, taking its total lottery funding to £628m so far, NMEC simply can't afford it.

"We've had no plans whatsoever for any kind of party at the Dome at the end of the year," an NMEC spokesman said. "I can't completely rule out that there might be some kind of closing or handing over ceremony at the end of the year, even if it's just two blokes in suits shaking hands, with one of them handing over keys to the other."

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