ShowsBefore You GoBulletin BoardContactAboutSearch
Show and Features |
Culture Watch | Question of the Week | Letters of the Week |
Traveler's Aid | Library | Host's View

The Mediocre Milliennium Dome

The British have a reputation for always complaining. And maybe there's some truth in the accusation. They've just spent nearly a billion dollars building London's answer to the Eiffel Tower: the Millennium Dome. It's like the biggest circus tent in the world packed with some of the most advanced technology in the world. The whole show is there for just a year. But it's received nothing but bad publicity. What's wrong with the place? We sent the Savvy Traveler's resident Brit, Martin Stott, to London to find out.

The Mediocre Milliennium Dome
by Martin Stott

Real Audio Listen with RealAudio          help Need audio help?

Well, maybe the question shouldn't be what's wrong with the Dome but what's wrong with the Brits? We're not just going on a trip to East London here but on a journey into the mind of an Englishman. Grab your Prozac and, as they say, welcome aboard.

Cook: "We have had the most negative, roughest ride of any project in Britain."

Ross Cook is one of the Millennium Dome spokesmen and he's fed up with the whining, carping, pessimistic attitudes of the British media.

Cook: "From day one we've just had a constant stream of negative articles. We have suffered quite a lot as a result of it."


The Millennium dome is a hugely ambitious idea. In four years they've cleaned up a large chunk of contaminated land, built this amazing circus tent on it and packed it with interactive, hi-tech exhibits. What did they expect? We were bound to moan about it. Lesson one: it's only when we're being miserable that the British are really happy. Our philosophy is that if you expect something to be rubbish, and it is, then at least you have the satisfaction of knowing you were right. If, instead, it turns out to be great then it's a nice surprise. You can't lose.

The Dome is split up into about 20 zones. This is the Body zone, I'm looking at a robot sewing up the intestines of an imitation patient. Yuk! Now I'm on an escalator inside the leg of a giant hundred-foot glass fiber body and hanging over our heads in the rib cage at the top is this huge, bulging, throbbing heart. Urgh!

Further on and time for lesson number Two: Brits aren't just moaners, we're also uptight. I come across a group standing underneath a giant screen showing a sperm racing against millions of other sperm towards an egg. It's a real battle, tension's running high, will it make it? And finally, yes, he's there--Conception! If this had been Disneyland the crowds would have been cheering. We Brits stand arms crossed in front of us in squirmishing silence before hurrying on to the next exhibit. In another zone, they're trying to tape thousands of voices, giving a snapshot of British life. You're standing in front of a shower and it suddenly asks you what was the last song you sang whilst scrubbing yourself down. You lot would be singing your answer. We're just embarrassed. We all say nothing and walk away quickly pretending it never happened.

living island

The highlight of the Dome is a 40-minute musical in the centre. It's a love story about a boy and a girl from different worlds that collide. It's fabulous, full of amazing special effects, giant moving scenery, loads of people flying around on wires and music by Peter Gabriel. It ends with the lovers reunited, entwined mid air. He had a rather unappealing goaty beard, she was wearing tights with flashes of yellow that looked like cut up bits of a roadworker's luminous safety vest. But don't let that spoil it for you. At one point it seemed they were simulating sex up there. They were certainly having more fun than anyone else in the Dome! I thought it can't be, it's just my dirty mind. Then they came down to earth and a baby's cry came through the loudspeaker system. They were!

For $30 the Dome is a good day out but the zones are all a bit educational, seriously worthy. You get fed up of being preached at.

Anouncement: "The size of a single gene, compared to the whole length of DNA in a single cell, is about the height of an ant compared to three Mt. Everests."

See what I mean? It got so bad that at one point I was in the loo drying my hands and found myself waiting for the dryer to start telling me whether I'd washed my hands properly or not. People I spoke to had a mixed reaction to the whole experience.

Tourist One: "I certainly wasn't enamoured with the day. It left a lot to be desired. They did try very hard, I must give them that, but I won't be rushing back next week or next month."

Tourist Two: "It was a lot better than I thought it was going to be. It's a really good day out, it's been well worth it. We've been in the school part and we've all seemed to enjoy it. It's been great. A lot to do, probably more than can fit in a day."

So what did I think? Being British, I wanted it to be really brilliant or really rubbish. Either way would have been just as good. In the end it was in the middle. Not great fun but, worse, not bad enough to moan about!

From the Millennium Dome, this is Martin Stott, bitching and whining for the Savvy Traveler.


Savvy Resources:

American Public Media
American Public Media Home | Search | How to Listen
©2004 American Public Media |
Terms of Use | Privacy Policy