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13 avril 2006

Dome sweet dome?

The Millennium Dome looks as space-agey as you can get, squatting on the Greenwich peninsula in east London like some recumbent alien mothership. It is a spectacularly iconic structure, and an unmistakable landmark from the air - and on the East Enders title sequence - an eighth wonder of the world to outshine that other dome, the one which Sir Christopher Wren set atop St Paul's cathedral three centuries before.

Yet it has also become known as possibly the world's most spectacular white elephant, bringing in the new Millennium with rows over its £789 million cost (£628 million of which was covered by National Lottery funding), over its content, and over what should happen to it when the last spent Millennium fireworks finally flopped out of the sky. The largest single-roofed structure in the world, the Millennium Dome would become, according to Tony Blair, "a triumph of confidence over cynicism, boldness over blandness, excellence over mediocrity". Instead, despite the hype, the fireworks, the stage show devised by Peter Gabriel, and the building's undoubted presence, the Dome became known as "Tony's Tent", a science-fiction folly that has lain largely unused, costing the taxpayer more than £30 million to maintain since it closed at the end of 2000. Since then, it has hosted only a handful of sporting or music events, not to mention Christmas 2004, when it was adopted as a temporary shelter for the homeless....

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