Millennium Dome could have been made ‘tribute to Princess Di’ secret docs show

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The Millennium Dome was briefly proposed as a tribute to the late Princess Diana while at another stage possibly scrapped all together classified documents have revealed.

The project was said to be in trouble just two years before it was due to open with the then Prime Minister Tony Blair having major concerns after taking on the project first conceived by his predecessor, John Major.

With three years to go before the opening there were fears the attraction would not bring in enough visitors, that it may not be finished in time and that the dome would over heat.

Developers were even weighing up the possibility of turning the development in Greenwich, east London, into a series of “sheds” in an effort to save costs.

When Princess Diana in Paris on August 31, 1997 some individuals involved in the project called for the dome to reflect the tragedy.

Two days after her death director of communications, Alastair Campbell, wrote to the PM and described how Sam Chisolm, on the Dome’s board, proposed that the “Millennium project be completely refashioned, the site extended, to accommodate, for example, a hospital, businesses, charities, private residences, and the whole thing named ‘the Princess Diana Centre’”.

Other documents released by the National Archives in Kew detailed how Mr Chisolm envisioned an “eighth wonder of the world” attraction being a “lasting and appropriate tribute by the people to Diana”.

Ministers were however told that the idea would not go down well with the Royal Family.

In some quarters Diana's death was seen as a way to cancel the project all together.

A letter from aide James Purnell to the Prime Minister the following month said: “Clearly, there would be a significant political downside to cancelling the project.

“But if the risk of failure is too great or public attitudes harden before it’s able to prove its success so that the political cost becomes intolerable, it would be better to take that pain now than far greater pain in the year 2000, much closer to an election.

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“Moreover, Diana’s death could give us a semi-plausible excuse to cancel.”

The £758 million Dome was opened amid much fanfare on December 31 1999, where guests included Mr Blair and the Queen.

However, the attraction drew only 6.5 million visitors during 2000 – having budgeted for 12 million – and it was closed to be replaced with The O2, which has hosted concerts, sporting events and other entertainment since June 2007.

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  • Princess Diana
  • Queen
  • Royal Family
  • London
  • Labour Party

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