Up at the O2

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IT has played host to some of the biggest names in entertainment — now there’s a new way to enjoy London’s O2 dome.

Multi-million-pound experience Up At The O2 allows visitors to walk over the TOP of the former Millennium Dome. I was part of a group given a sneak preview before it opened on Thursday.

It is the brainchild of Alistair Wood of the O2’s parent company AEG. He wanted to create an iconic new experience for London and he told me: “The best views of London are from the top of the London Eye. “But it can be a bit of a dry experience. We wanted to do something more immersive, where people could really get involved.”

The climb starts at “Basecamp” by the side of the main entrance. We were kitted out in jumpsuits and briefed on what to expect — including how to connect our harnesses to the safety wire so we didn’t emulate Pierce Brosnan as Bond in The World Is Not Enough and tumble head over heels down the dome’s sides.

Gary Day, an experienced mountaineer, was our guide as we began ascending a narrow walkway designed by the same architects responsible for the dome. Suspended from the yellow pillars that support the O2 and made of a similar tent-like material, it gives the illusion you are walking on the roof. Bounced As we bounced along, it became clear the steepest and trickiest part is the first 50 or so metres of the 350m (1,150ft) walkway.

Here the gradient is around 30 degrees but the minimum age allowed is ten and the maximum weight 21st so it’s fine for most people with a decent level of fitness. With the dome’s roof almost close enough to touch, not even a vertigo sufferer should worry.

What Up At The O2 lacks in thrills and spills it makes up for with amazing views. Surrounded by the Thames on three sides, more and more came into view as we climbed, from the Olympic Park in Stratford just across the river to glimpses of London Bridge and the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf. At the summit, there’s a viewing platform and visitors can wander around to take pictures.

With plans for open-air cinema screenings, “pop-up” restaurant nights, rooftop weddings and even a zip wire to make a speedy descent, there’s more to come. It’s another new chapter for the Dome, which opened as the Millennium Experience, to a mixed reaction, on New Year’s Eve 2000.

But since becoming the O2 arena five years ago, it has become one of the most successful entertainment venues in the world — by night. Wood says: “One of our challenges has been to get the same number of people here in the day.” With Up At The O2 that might just begin to happen.

JAMES ELLIS

The two-hour Up At The O2 experience costs £22 and is open year-round, weather permitting. See theo2.co.uk/upattheo2.