Unveiled: Blair's theme park for the Millennium

PM promises Greenwich extravaganza will be the envy of the world
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IN LANGUAGE emotional and at times apocalyptic for what remains in essence a theme park, the Prime Minister yesterday unveiled some of the contents of the Millennium Dome.

They include a 79-ft high genderless body that visitors will enter via the waist and exit via the heel, a "floater-coaster" bed, on which to relax, a spiritual garden, in which to reflect, and a climactic show designed by the man behind the stadium extravaganzas of U2 and The Rolling Stones, in which to commune.

Though Mr Blair and Mr Mandelson were careful never to utter the words theme park, the Dome as outlined yesterday will have Disneyesque elements, promising a highly enjoyable day out with educational, spiritual and community aspects approached through rides, boats, moving pavements and cyberspace.

It will be, promised Mr Blair, "the envy of the world ... Picture the scene. The clock strikes midnight on 31 December 1999. The eyes of the world turn to a spot where the new millennium begins - the Meridian line at Greenwich. This is Britain's opportunity to greet the world with a celebration that is so bold, so beautiful, so inspiring that it embodies at once the spirit of confidence and adventure in Britain and the spirit of the future of the world."

Getting his aggro in first, Mr Blair castigated any doubters, placing them in an ignoble, unpatriotic and nihilistic tradition.

"It does not surprise me," he said, "that the cynics have rubbished the idea. They are in good company. They are part of an inglorious strand of British history: like those who said St Paul's would be a calamity, that the 1851 exhibition would have no visitors and that the 1951 Festival of Britain would never be finished on time.

"It's easy to say `don't do something'. To say that it won't be done on time. That it costs too much. That no one will visit it. It takes little courage to say no to a new idea."

Unveiling models of the contents for around half of the zones, Mr Blair disclosed that businesses which have so far pledged their backing include Tesco, BSkyB, Manpower and BT. A sum of pounds 75m has been raised so far, half of the sponsorship target.

The Dome will house:

t The Body Zone - "A voyage into the most fascinating and complex object in the world - the human body";

t Spirit Level - "A space for spiritual reflection that recognises the formative influence of Christianity in the Western world and the presence of other religious beliefs";

t Licensed to Skill and the Learning Curve - "The Learning Curve explores the classroom of the future while in Licensed to Skill, visitors will see how they meet the career challenges of the future";

t Dreamscape - "Visitors float along a river of dreams;

t Serious Play - "A moving pavement into the world of play with multi- media and a cinematic experience.

t Living Island - "Living Island takes visitors on a journey to a typical seaside resort - with surprises in store as the day trippers start to explore the difference they can make to our environment through everyday choices".

The attractions will be ranged in a circle around the performance area at the heart of the 20-acre space, which will feature a show designed by impresario Mark Fisher and rock star Peter Gabriel, with live performers and "stunning" visual effects repeated throughout each day.

While rock music and visual special effects will certainly feature, it remains unclear as to which other performing arts or symbols of British culture will find a home in the Dome.

Special report, pages 8 and 9 Leading article, page18