Thursday, 21 June 2007

O2

Last night the O2 opened it doors to the public. There was a free event for the residents of the London Borough of Greenwich (which is where the O2 is).

Once upon a time.... a VERY long time ago some politicians decided to build a dome. The project was conceived to celebrate the start of the third millennium way back in 1994. The whole thing has always been subject to large amounts of mockery from press and public alike. Nowhere near the expected amount of visitors ever came... and the whole thing (unsurprisingly) cost a lot more than originally anticipated. On the plus side, the Dome was at the centre of the re-generation of the Greenwich Peninsula and the extension of the Jubilee line - both good things, finally the London Underground came to South East London! When the original exhibition closed in 2001 everyone wondered what would happen to the Dome. The answer turned out to be, for a very long time, not a lot. It sat empty, costing money to maintain and occasionally being used for one off events (a 'Winter Wonderland' and 'Crisis at Christmas' spring to mind).

The whole thing was eventually sold off to Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) who in turn sold the rights of the name to O2 plc. The Millennium Dome became the O2 - officially at least... most of us who live round here still simply refer to it as 'the Dome'.

So. Back to last night. We drove down and left our car in one of the newly refurbished car parks... paying just a couple of quid (apparently it will normally cost £20). And wandered over to the Dome. The new square was buzzing with people... and as we made our way inside we were given food vouchers for the concessions (which we never got round to using). Upstairs and into the arena. A band played, the chief executive of AEG Europe (I think) spoke, some local school children sang, another band played, a council guy spoke, we left. The entertainment was so-so... but that wasn't really the point. We went to see what was there... the arena is good. Big! Excellent acoustics, lighting, etc. The concourse is quite utilitarian... although there seems to be a lot of choice with concessions. The 'Blue Room' (exclusive to O2 customers apparently) was beyond unimpressive... although certainly very blue! I like the entertainment district best. An 'avenue' with plasterboard fa├žades and fake trees... longer than Bond Street they said... not all open last night. Walked as far as the Cinema entrance, and saw Pizza Express, Slug and Lettuce and Nandos to name a few. That is the other thing inside an 11 (?) screen multiplex being run by Vue. Odeon over on Bugsbys Way must be gutted!

As evenings out go it wasn't really up there... but it was good to see what they've been up to, and what is inside. Given the programme of events announced so far, am not likely to be paying to go there anytime soon!