Open House Day at the Dome

So – Open House Weekend. And for the first time I didn’t rush around like a blue-arsed fly trying to catch everything. Instead we decided to do one thing – and go out of town for the rest of the mayhem. And that one thing? The Dome of course (Who on God’s earth is ever going to call it O2?????)

I figured that this was the last year we were ever going to get to see it anything like empty – and judging from the queues, I wasn’t the only one. We walked over more or less first thing and the queue was already three-quarters of an hour long – hurrah for W H Smith and The Sunday Papers.

Of course we weren’t going to see it anything like empty – it already looks like a film set for “Brazil” – but it still classes as one hell of a big bugger. It never looks so big from the outside as when you stand in the doorway and just look up.

To be honest we didn’t get to see much at all – we weren’t actually allowed inside – just at a special viewing area – so much for the promised “hard-hat” tour – but it was interesting to find out the plans – and see jolly user-friendly versions of the map of what’s going to be there (or the bits we were allowed to see – is it me – or there is a lot of perhaps unnecessary secrecy going on here – all under the guise of transparency – but dig any deeper than the bit you’re officially allowed to know and you meet a very pleasant – but impenetrable stone wall. For starters no photography of any kind was allowed – they made you check anything other than tiny cameras at the gate and you had to put the tiny ones firmly ‘away.’)

Our cheery PR lady waved her hands around a lot and talked about when “Robbie” is going to be here – not, you understand, that Robbie has been booked or anything – he is just her shorthand for all the megastars who are coming Greenwich-bound in the next few years. She merrily told us about Tutankhamun coming in November next year, the jolly piazza with various “commercial” buildings (no specifics) hotels (ditto) bars (ditto) restaurants (ditto) and shops (ditto) and the intensely dull-sounding British Music Hall of Fame exhibition – worthiness of the variety that would have got it into Dome Mark I.

Still – I guess it’s regeneration and let’s face it, we’ll be sitting on the edge of the biggest entertainments complex in Europe at the end of it. Much, of course, rests on the coming of the Super-Casino – the ominous grinding-sounds of big-business pulling out if we don’t get it rumbled in the background – but as far as I could see they’re not really concentrating on that now – other than trying to keep their business partners – such as the giant hotel chain (no specifics) who are going to occupy the site next to the dome.

I did wonder whether the visitors staying at the brand new landmark hotel sited conveniently on top of the Blackwall Tunnel will be as delighted with the smell as they will be by the view, and I spent a happy few minutes fantasising that the chemicals factory responsible for those appalling odours may have stopped production of chemicals in favour of concentrating on creating the worst stench imaginable so that they will be paid megabucks to relocate …

But for the moment most of the plans and theoretical consortia filling this massive empty space are all talk – as is the rumour that I had never heard before that TFL is planning a third Blackwall crossing linking the Peninsula with Silvertown. Presumably this would be a DLR – though as soon as she mentioned it, our cheery PR lady did her best to distance herself from it – nothing to do with Mr Anschutz, she said – which, of course, is true (I hope…)

That would at least, count for the temporary nature of the car parks there, and the dreadful build-quality of the Beckham Football Academy, which only has planning for five years (silly me – I assumed that he had planned it to last as long as his popularity – two years at most.)

It was an illuminating visit – throwing up as many – if not more questions about the project as it answered – certainly most of the questions that were not “fluffy” that people around me asked were skilfully (or not-so-skilfully in at least one case) fielded. I remain a supporter of the Dome project – and of the casino. But I am watching it with a wary eye – there’s something niggling at the back of my mind that this will benefit more the people coming to it than those living around it. More updates as I hear them…

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