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STORY:
Millennium Dome Fails to Attract Big Crowds

Attendance for Londonís Millennium centerpiece is below expectations


London's beleaguered Millennium Dome, supposedly the showpiece of Britain's 2000 celebrations, is failing to attract the hoped-for crowds, according to attendance figures just released.

The dome, a huge futuristic pavilion housing educational and cultural attractions, cost 758 million pounds (1.2 billion dollars/euros) to build.

It was hoped that 10 million excited tourists would click through its turnstiles this year, but it's got a long way to go according to new figures by the New Millennium Experience Company (NMEC) -- in charge of overseeing Britain's millennium event.

But from its opening at the start of the year up to April 16, 1,812,752 people had visited the attraction, the company said, adding however that it still hoped to achieve the 10-million figure needed to balance the budget.

The mammoth project, built in Greenwich, London, comprises 14 themed exhibition zones. Recently new management at the Dome, led by Pierre-Yves Gerbeau, a Disneyland Paris veteran, introduced longer opening hours in a bid to bring in more customers.

Former Dome boss Jennie Page was forced to resign following negative publicity surrounding the launch of the Dome on New Year's Eve and low visitor numbers during its first month of operation.

The Dome is being outshone by another new London tourist attraction, the "London Eye", a huge Ferris wheel on the side of the Thames river which takes you 135 meters (450 feet) into the air for panoramic views of the British capital.

A ride in one of the 32 air-conditioned capsules, whose stability are controlled by computer, gives a completely new perspective of London in a half-hour spin.

On a clear day you can see for 40 kilometers (25 miles) around the capital. The London Eye can carry 15,000 people a day, five million a year, as many as visit Paris' Eiffel Tower.

Source: Agence France Presse  

DATE: 5/4/2000

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