If the false start of what was the original Millennium Dome accurately foreshadowed the expensive flop that the venue and exhibition proved to be, then its reincarnation as The O2 arena has exceeded even the most optimistic of forecasts.
Since reopening on 24 June with a concert by Bon Jovi, and rave press reviews, the venue has seen performances from a range of artists, including Justin Timberlake and Prince, with more in the pipeline. It is also preparing to welcome the Tutankhamun exhibition next month.
But there's more to the venue than high-profile entertainment. It also gives London a great new venue for corporate hospitality and events. Lloyds TSB was the first to hold a corporate event at The O2 in June. The gala evening rounded off the bank's Stars in their Eyes weekend of activities, which included a Pirates of the Caribbean party at Tobacco Dock and an Olympics-themed session at the Odeon Leicester Square.
We asked the event's executive producer for his opinion on London's newest venue.
HUW MORGAN, MANAGING DIRECTOR, CONFERENCE CONNECTIONS
- Why choose The O2?
We wanted an iconic venue that could hold 2,000 for a sit-down dinner; they are few and far between - even in London. The O2 was very much in the news, with its public launch the following week.
- What did you do there?
We took over the main O2 Arena, entertainment district, Thames Pier and public square. We installed a large stage, lighting and sound rig in the main arena. In addition, we used eight live cameras and acres of LED screens. The whole build took 36 hours, using 120 crew, 6,000m2 of carpet, ten dressing rooms and 70 performers. Acts included McFly, the Sugababes and two bands made up of members of Lloyds TSB's senior management.
- What's the space like?
Very impressive. As this was a dinner, we were on the main floor and we used MAC lights focused down from the gallery to create a more intimate atmosphere. The acoustics are fantastic and the entertainment district gave us a wonderful setting for the red-carpet welcome.
- How flexible was the venue?
It's always a worry technically when you are the guinea pig event in a new venue, but the technical support was fantastic. We used The O2's in-house caterer - Levy's Restaurants - and they were very good indeed. As Gordon Ramsay was executive chef on the event, everything had to be of a very high standard and Levy's executive chef, Mathew Herter, worked with him extremely well.
- What were the challenges?
We were using a 23,000-seat auditorium for a dinner for 2,000, but once we had plotted the lighting to lose the height, it worked very well indeed. The logistics of moving 2,000 people are always challenging, but with detailed planning, it all went like clockwork.
- What feedback did you get?
Guests were blown away by the weekend. We try to maintain an element of surprise for the guests, so we hadn't told them the venue for the Sunday night dinner. As they made their way up the Thames by river cruiser and saw their names on the huge outdoor LED screens, the reaction was exactly what we hoped for.
- Would you use it again?
Definitely - we won't be able to claim that we are the first people to use the venue again, but it's still a very spectacular option. In fact, we have three enquiries on provisional hold as we speak.
- Graham Lindsay, MD, Wales & West Region, Lloyds TSB
"To have been the first corporate event at The O2 was special. As a venue, it was absolutely amazing and the staff could not have been more helpful. Guests were mesmerised from the moment they arrived by river, walked along the pier to the impressive entrance and then into the main auditorium, with 200 beautifully laid tables and a fabulous stage. I personally have the claim to fame of being part of the very first live act to appear on that impressive new stage. The O2 is a fantastic venue and Conference Connections used it to full advantage to deliver a spectacular event. The organisation shown beforehand - and throughout the three days - was exemplary and was critical to everyone's enjoyment."