Craig recommends… You might like to read my review of the Elvis Exhibition at The O2. The best way of getting to the O2 Arena is by catching a Thames Clipper boat. Another fun way of getting there is by riding the cable car over from the ExCel Centre. Check out our guide to live music concerts in London to see what’s on at The O2.
The O2 Arena is a huge metal tent lying on a bend of the Thames near Greenwich. When it opened it was the largest single-roofed building in the world, tall enough to accommodate Nelson’s Column standing upright, or the Eiffel Tower on its side.
It was originally conceived as one of London’s millennium projects, alongside the London Eye and Jubilee Line extension.
The original idea was to turn the Millennium Dome into a 21st-century equivalent of the 1851 Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, but the plans were ill-conceived and poorly thought out, and suffered from massive public apathy. It didn’t help that the exhibits were rather less than enthralling.
The venue was split into 14 zones: Body, Work, Learning, Money, Play, Journey, Self Portrait, Living Island, Talk, Faith, Home Planet, Rest, Mind, and Shared Ground, but over-optimistic visitor numbers meant the government was called on to bail it out.
The Millennium Dome still managed to attract more than 6.5 million visitors in its first year of operation, so it was hardly a disaster, but it was clear that it wouldn’t last very long as a tourist attraction, and the government started looking for a buyer.
Many alternative plans were proposed for the Dome after its closure, and there was talk of turning it into a casino, a sports venue, and a music arena with shops and offices. The mobile communication company O2 eventually won out, and turned it into a spectacular entertainment complex called the O2 Arena.
Under the rim of the tent you’ll find lots of pubs and restaurants, a cinema, and a smaller music venue called the Indigo.
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