The O2 Arena in London is one of the biggest live entertainment venues in the world, accommodating 20,000 people and welcoming more than two million visitors every year.
Built at a cost of more than £800 million to mark the UK’s millennium celebrations, it houses a spectacular year-long exhibition that began on 1st January 2000.
Initially called the Millennium Dome, the white building designed by architect Richard Rogers features one of the largest domes in the world and is a spectacular landmark on the capital’s skyline.
© Victor Moussa / Adobe Stock
The building was planned by John Major’s Conservative government as a World Fair-type showcase to mark the third millennium. Funding was largely provided by the National Lottery.
Construction work started in 1997, taking three years to complete. The exterior of the building features a large, white dome, with 12 yellow towers on top, each one standing 100 metres high. The 12 towers represent each month of the year, while the building’s diameter of 365 metres represents the number of days in a year.
Once the successful millennium exhibition had finished, the Greenwich building’s future was the subject of much debate and controversy. The millennium exhibition was never going to be permanent, and due to the huge cost of building the Millennium Dome, a more permanent use was sought for the premises.
Press reports claimed its maintenance costs were £1 million a month, even when empty. Apart from the commendable efforts that turned it into a temporary shelter for homeless people over Christmas in 2003, the Millennium Dome began to look like a “white elephant”.
However, all of this changed in 2007, when Meridian Delta Ltd transformed it into the O2 Arena, sponsored by the telecommunications giant. Ever since, it has hosted live gigs by some of the world’s major superstars including Ed Sheeran, Celine Dion, Bon Jovi, Take That, Rod Stewart, Rihanna, Jay Z, Justin Bieber, Noel Gallagher and Prince.
In total, around 600 artists have played at the O2 Arena. The fastest-selling gig was the reunion concert by the Spice Girls in 2007, which had completely sold out in just 38 seconds!
The venue was even used as a filming location for the James Bond movie, The World is Not Enough, in 1999. Starring Pierce Brosnan as British spy 007, scenes from the film were filmed at the Millennium Dome, before it opened to the public.
Bond chases a beautiful villain in a speed-boat along the River Thames, but she tries to escape in a hot air balloon. Bond ends up on top of the O2, trying to grab the ropes of the balloon, but he loses his grip and falls on to the roof of the arena in the thrilling opening sequence.
Shows for 2019
This year, a number of top artists and events are lined up for the O2. The Brit Awards 2019 will be staged there on 20th February, hosted by Jack Whitehall for the second consecutive year.
Nicki Minaj will be playing live on 11th March, as part of her world tour. She will be showcasing her platinum-selling album, Queen, promising fans a “fully immersive experience”. The tour also features Chicago rapper Juice Wrld.
Take That have announced eight dates at the O2, starting on 2nd May, to celebrate their 30th-anniversary tour. They will be joined by pop superstar Rick Astley.
Olly Murs’ All the Hits Tour is stopping off at the O2 on 17th and 18th May. Now a host on TV talent show The Voice, he is the X-Factor’s most successful male artist, with more than 17.5 million followers on social media.
Rita Ora will be appearing on 24th May, followed by crooner Michael Bublé from 30th May to 1st June. Boy band Westlife are playing live from 13th to 15th June, celebrating their 20th anniversary with The Twenty Tour.
Backstreet’s back alright! Yes, the Backstreet Boys’ DNA World Tour on 17th and 18th June showcases their new album. Ariana Grande will be appearing from 17th to 20th August, followed by Cher on 20th and 21st October.
Veteran rocker Rod Stewart ends his 2019 tour with two massive nights at the O2 on 17th December and 19th December. The tour will be filled with both classic hits and the latest songs from his new album, Blood Red Roses. Stewart is one of the best-selling artists of all time, having sold more than 200 million records across the world.
Legendary singer Elton John is kicking off his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour at the O2 on 4th November and has a further four shows lined up, before he embarks on the colossal world tour throughout 2020 and 2021.
It will be taking in many places where the superstar has played during the past 50 years and will consist of 300 shows across five continents. He says the UK dates will be “emotional” and “a lot of fun”, marking what he says will be his last ever live tour.
If you’re planning to watch your favourite stars playing at the O2, hiring a minibus from H&H Van Hire is an ideal way for groups of people to travel.
Enjoy the build up to the gig and arrive together in comfort. A minibus will also cut out the hassle and expense of taking several individual cars. Our minibuses provide a cost-effective travel solution when you divide the hire fee between you.
Please contact us for further details of our comfortable nine, 14 and 17-seater minibuses.
Have a great show!