The Millennium Experience

The following entry is a record in the “Catalogue of Catastrophe” – a list of failed and troubled projects from around the world.

Millennium Experience and the Millennium Dome – UK
Project type : Public exhibition
Date : 2000 (filed under recent classics)
Cost :
 £789M (initial investment) – £189 (recouped from ticket sales)

Synopsis :
The Millennium Dome in London, UK was a purpose built structure created to house a year long “Millennium Experience” exhibition that was to celebrate the year 2000 milestone. Originally proposed by the ruling Conservative government, the project concept was expanded and championed by Labour party Prime Minister Tony Blair when he took office in 1997.  The Millennium Experience exhibition as to feature interactive exhibits, shows and other entertainment that were built around three primary themes: “who we are”, “what we do” and “where we live”.  The event was designed to draw tourists into London during the Millennium year and was intended to be a celebration of mankind’s achievements.

When the Millennium Experience opened on 31st Dec 1999, initial reaction from the press was poor. Lack of content, lack of clear themes and lack of creativity were common criticisms. I did actually attended the exhibition myself and I would rank it as mediocre compared to other major public events I’ve attended. For budgeting purposes government officials had projected 12M visitors. In reality only 6 1/2M people attended.

Largely funded using money raised through the British lottery, the construction and event costs totalled £789M.  Higher than anticipated construction costs and the shortfall in ticket sales meant that the total cost to the lottery commission was £600M. Money that otherwise would have been channeled to charities.

Following the exhibition the original plan had been to transform the Millennium Dome itself into a soccer pitch for use by one of London’s major teams.  In the end none of the teams were interested.  For many years the venue remained empty while the British government sought an appropriate buyer. The cost to maintain the structure was reported to be £1M per month and as a result the venue remained a liability that the opposing political parties were more than willing to leverage.

Contributing factors as reported in the press:
Lack of vision.  Poor execution (lackluster content resulting in negative experiences for visitors and the resulting negative PR stemming for those experiences). Failure to manage expectations (prior to the opening the Prime Minister claimed the event would be “a triumph of confidence over cynicism, boldness over blandness, excellence over mediocrity”. Failure to plan properly for the post event disposition of the venue.

Reference links :

  1. Millennium Dome – Wikipedia
  2. Dome woes haunt Blair