Sunday, June 24, 2007

O² Dear

I can finally reveal my secrets. Yesterday I was invited to the hush-hush test run of the new O2 Arena. (The Millennium Dome to you and me.) The line-up was promising – Tom Jones, Peter Kay, Basement Jaxx and Kaiser Chiefs – so I hotfooted it to Greenwich for my first time to see the Dome.

As I always thought it is indeed a stunning building. I’m so glad somebody is finally doing something with it. But that’s enough about the outside. Walking through the doors I was hit with the first problem. You really do face the danger of leaving the Dome with the O2 logo forever ingrained on your retina. Wherever you look, there it is. I don’t think I’ve seen so much corporate branding in my life. There was even someone wandering around with ‘trademark team’ on his yellow safety vest. What’s his job? I mean I’m pretty certain nobody is going to mistake it for the ‘Vodadome’.

Anyway entering the O2 you’re greeted by a huge concourse with… yes you’ve guessed it… an O2 shop. Perhaps they’re hoping all the branding will immediately brainwash the poor fools carrying a 3 or Virgin Mobile phone. Still, I guess seeing as it is now called the O2 I should have expected little else.

The concourse extends around half of the dome. Slap bang in the middle is the huge new O2 Arena while the other half remains unfinished. Along the concourse were a number of restaurants – all well known brands, though pleasingly better quality ones so no Burger King or KFC but instead the likes of Nandos or Frankie & Benny’s. There is also a multiscreen Vue cinema within the Dome – making it a good all round entertainment venue. I arrived at 2pm when there were few people there. The arena opened at 4pm so for two hours I just had the concourse to explore.

This is were things worsened. There is only a limited space to the concourse and slowly but surely more and more of the 17,000 invited turned up. By 3.30pm it was genuinely reaching a point were peoples lives could have been at risk. You simply couldn’t move. Travelling from the Vue to the Arena should take minutes – it took half an hour and a lot of pushing and shoving. If you wanted the toilet you had to battle this crowd then face a further 20-minute queue – 40 minutes if you were female.

When the arena opened I headed inside. But, rather than open the whole arena they opened a floor at a time in half hour intervals. Thus the queuing out in the concourse wasn’t alleviated. I queued for 1hour and 20 minutes for food – but I was hungry and had no other option. It didn’t help matters that at least 2 of the food stalls had to close following a power cut. (£8 for cod and chips by the way.)

Also despite the heavy branding it seems the O2 designers don’t actually want you to spend money there. How come? Well there were just 4 cash points. 3 of which constantly crashed. 17,000 people and just 3 cash points. What’s that about?

So far then not a positive experience. Thankfully that all changed once I was seated. The arena looks to be a brilliant venue. (Though the stage was, yes, you’ve guessed it, in the shape of ‘O2’.) The sound and lighting is stunning. The view was great and unbelievable the seat was very comfy. All the acts performed brilliantly and Dermot O’Leary was the perfect host.

I just hope these teething problems will be sorted out for when I return next month!

1 comment:

dazzle_v2003 said...

£8 for Cod and chips! Blooming rip-off! Otherwise sounds like a good place!