Greenwich’s Millennium Dome was briefly considered as a tribute to Princess Diana, declassified documents revealed today.
The death of Diana, in a car crash in Paris on August 31, 1997, caused some involved in the project to call for the dome to be a memorial to her.
A letter to the Prime Minister by No10 director of communications Alastair Campbell two days later described how Sam Chisolm, on the Dome’s board, proposed 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 correspondence from September 1997, released today by the National Archives in Kew, revealed how Mr Chisolm envisioned an “eighth wonder of the world” attraction which would be a “lasting and appropriate tribute by the people to Diana”.
But Ministers were told the idea would “not go down particularly well with the royal family” – something Mr Chisolm claimed to see “as a pretty big plus”, the documents suggest.
A Blair political aide Peter Hyman warned the then-Prime Minister Tony Blair’s chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, that the Dome was being seen as a “pointless waste of money with no lasting legacy or worthwhile purpose”.
Powell told Blair in a memo that a “scheme like this would certainly meet the public mood and it gets us off the hook of the existing plan at Greenwich with all its problems.”
It could have involved an exhibition of the late Princess of Wales’ life, a children’s medical research centre, a hospital, a national ballet centre and a centre for British fashion. Tony Blair was encouraged to discuss the proposal with Diana’s brother Earl Spencer, by early October 1997 the idea had come to nothing
In the end, the attraction drew only 6.5 million visitors during 2000 – it was geared up for 12 million.
It was closed and replaced with The O2 in June 2007.
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