Introducing: The O²

As the world’s biggest dome, The O² in London is hard to miss.

Frequently referred to simply as “the Dome,” this large, dome-shaped building is located on 181 acres of the Greenwich Peninsula, bounded on three sides by the River Thames in southeast London.

The structure, however, has had a short, checkered past: the “Millennium Dome” (its original name) was constructed to hold a major exhibition that celebrated the beginning of the third millennium. Built on the prime meridian in Greenwich, the venue stayed open only for one year — from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2000 — and closed a few hours before the beginning of the new millennium.

Since 2005, the space has been repurposed to accommodate an indoor sporting arena and entertainment district — and it’s been renamed (“The O²” moniker is for the British mobile phone network).

The results of this top-to-bottom renovation will become apparent next week, when The O² opens its doors to the public. Boasting a raised roof, the new venue will feature an arena space for 17,000 people, a separate live music venue, an 11-screen cinema complex, an exhibition space and several bars and restaurants.

As the first purpose-built music venue in London since the Royal Albert Hall in 1871, The O² will celebrate its reopening on Sunday with a sold-out rock concert featuring Bon Jovi.

Throughout the summer, the arena will also host several big-name performers, such as Andrea Bocelli, Justin Timberlake, Barbra Streisand, Prince, the Rolling Stones, Snow Patrol, the Scissor Sisters, Take That and Keane.

For more information, visit www.theo2.co.uk.

The O²

Peninsula Square, London

www.theo2.co.uk.

WHERE TO STAY

» For a new venue, why not stay at one of London’s new hotels? The Intercontinental London Park Lane just reopened in May after completing a £60 million refurbishment. With 387 renovated guest rooms and 60 suites, the hotel also features a new split-level signature suite — an ultraluxurious apartment with a floating staircase and stunning vistas of Buckingham Palace and the Royal Parks. Located near Paddington and Victoria stations, the hotel is a quick Tube ride to The O². Room rates start at £148 per night. Visit www.london.intercontinental.com.

GETTTING THERE

» No need to drive to The O² (although there is limited parking). The arena is easily accessible using London’s public bus and Tube service via the Jubilee Line, which also happens to be the only Underground route that connects with all others — so national rail passengers from north, south, east or west can easily transfer to The O²’s North Greenwich station, in zone 2. Visit www.tfl.gov.uk.

» The new Thames Clippers O² express offers dedicated servicefrom the West End to The O² via London Bridge, Canary Wharf and Greenwich. Round-trip tickets are £8, and the boat has a bar on board. Visit www.thamesclippers.com.

THE VENUE

» If you like your music live, IndigO² is a 2,350-capacity venue, featuring standing room and amphitheatre-style seating. It will showcase new talent and established artists. Visit www.TheIndigo2.co.uk.

» The O² arena can host all major sporting events, including ice hockey, basketball, tennis, gymnastics and boxing. Special events for later this year include: World Championship Boxing (Khan vs. Limond) July 14 and the 2007 NBA Europe Live (Boston Celtics vs. Minnesota Timberwolves) Oct. 10.

» The O²’s exhibition space is scheduled to open Nov. 15 with the limited run of “Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs.” The show — making its first return to London in more than 30 years — will feature more than 130 artifacts from King Tut’s tomb. Visit www.kingtut.org.

» Surrounding The O², Entertainment Avenue will host several restaurants, bars, leisure attractions and retail outlets. Highlights include an 11-screen cinema complex — the biggest in London — which accommodates 770 seats, and Peninsula Square which links the North Greenwich Tube and bus station with the entrance to The O². Featuring a stage and large digital screen for video displays and small concerts, this outdoor space will be the hub for cafes, shops and restaurants.

» An ice rink within The O² accommodates up to 200 skaters per session.

» More than 30 restaurants and bars are scheduled to open at The O2, including: Frankie & Benny’s; Inc Brasserie; Jimmy Monacos; Las Iguanas; Nando’s; Pizza Express; RAAN; Red Bar; S & M Café; Slug & Lettuce;Spur Steak & Grill; Starbucks; Thai Silk; Urban Inc.; Wasabi; Water Margin; and Zizzi.

The O²

Summer 2007 concert lineup

For tickets and more information, visit www.theo2.co.uk

» Sunday: Bon Jovi

» June 28: Snow Patrol

» June 30: Andrea Bocelli

» July 4, 5, 7, 8 and 10: Justin Timberlake

» July 14: Commonwealth Championship Boxing

» July 18, 22 and 25: Barbra Streisand

» July 21: Keane

» July 26, 27 and 28: Scissor Sisters

» Aug. 1, 3, 4, 7, 10, 11, 14, 17, 18, 24, 25, 28, 31; Sept. 1, 6, 8, 9, 12, 13, 16, 20, and 21: Prince

» Aug. 21, 23 and 26: The Rolling Stones

» Sept. 29 and 30: National Hockey League: Los Angeles Kings vs. Anaheim Ducks

» Oct. 10: 2007 NBA Europe Live (Boston Celtics vs. Minnesota Timberwolves)

» Oct. 17 to 21 and Oct. 23 to 28: Disney on Ice presents “Disneyland Adventure featuring the Incredibles”

» Nov. 29, 30; Dec. 1, 3, 4, 6. 7, 8: Take That

» Dec. 22: Jeff Wayne’s “The War of the Worlds”

» Dec. 26, 27, 28, 29 and 30: Disney’s “High School Musical: The Ice Tour”

kathleen.j.jay@gmail.com

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