The O2 Arena is one of London’s premier venues for massive live stage performances. It’s bigger than New York’s Madison Square Garden and the Manchester Evening News Arena – accommodating 20,000 people – and has become the best-selling arena in the world, attracting more than two million visitors each year.
The O2 was originally built at a cost of more than £800 million as part of the UK’s millennium celebrations. The impressive white Millennium Dome opened in 2000 to host a year-long exhibition to mark the occasion.
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As one of the largest domes in the world, it was designed by architect Richard Rogers and constructed by McAlpine and Laing – engineered by Buro Happold. The entire building is 13 times as big as the Albert Hall and as tall as Nelson’s Column.
The landmark building wasn’t without controversy: intended as a temporary structure, its critics said a permanent landmark would have been a better way of marking the new millennium. At the end of 2000, when the millennium exhibition had finished, there was much speculation about the arena’s future – and initially, plans were discussed to turn it into a football stadium. However, it was decided to turn it into a major entertainment venue instead.
Meridian Delta Ltd managed the transformation and in 2007 the new 02 Arena finally opened its doors. Its name came about because telecommunications giant O2 provided the main source of sponsorship for the venue.
The O2 Today
The O2 today is so much more than just a music arena as it also includes a Cineworld cinema, a music club, bars, restaurants, piazzas, exhibition space and a massive indoor street known as Entertainment Avenue. There’s even a river boat service operated by Thames Clippers to transport customers from central London to and from the O2. The arena is run by AEG who bought Thames Clippers to provide the river link, which includes the O2 Express service.
In February this year, O2 revealed a new deal had been agreed with AEG to continue with the naming rights of the venue until 2027.
Some of the biggest artists in the world have played at the O2 such as Alicia Keys, Take That, the Arctic Monkeys, Andrea Bocelli, Beyoncé, Barry Manilow, Britney Spears, Adele, Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen. Simon Cowell’s television talent show The X Factor has held its auditions there and before his sudden and untimely death, Michael Jackson’s This Is It tour was to be held at the O2 Arena in 2009 and 2010.
As well as music concerts it hosts sporting events, film premieres, stand-up comedy, ice shows and more.
The O2’s other claim to fame is the amazing opening scenes from blockbuster film, The World is Not Enough. Starring Pierce Brosnan as superspy James Bond 007, filming took place in 1999 before the O2’s grand opening as the Millennium Dome.
A thrilling high-speed boat chase along the River Thames leads to a soaked Bond ending up on top of the O2, after the mysterious woman he’s chasing tries to escape via hot air balloon. The opening scene sees Bond falling on to the roof, after he loses his grip on the ropes of the balloon carrying actress Maria Grazia Cucinotta as the glamorous Bond villain.
During filming, Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson described the Dome as “photogenic” and said how refreshing it was to be able to feature a new iconic landmark at the beginning of the film.
AEG, a global sports and entertainment presenter, is a subsidiary of Anschutz Company. It aims to provide a unique live entertainment experience and runs more than 100 world-class venues including the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin, Stockholm’s Globe Arena, the Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg and Staples Centre in Los Angeles.
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