The Millennium Dome

The Millennium Dome, now known as the O2 Arena, is considered a white elephant by many Britons.

© ­iStockphoto.com/ChrisSteer

­Perhaps as close as one gets to a literal white elephant, this white, domed behemoth, built to house a celebration for the new millennium, has become an embarrassing eyesore for many Londoners. The Millennium Dome has been controversial ever since its inception in the mid-1990s.

Costs rose throughout the planning and construction phases, with the British government regularly dispersing more money to the dome's builders. In the end, the dome cost 789 million pounds ($1.1 billion) to build [source: BBC News].

Ticket sales for the attractions were far below expectations. The New Millennium Experience Company, the dome's operator, only made 189 million pounds ($275 million) in revenues [source: BBC News]. There were accusations of fraud by vendors and suppliers. A band of thieves even attempted to steal a 203-carat diamond on display.

The dome was only open for a year, closing on Dec. 31, 2000 -- just before the start of the new millennium. In 2001, maintenance costs were 28.4 million pounds ($41.3 million).The following year, monthly maintenance alone clocked in at 250,000 pounds ($363,950) [source: BBC News].

­For a time, it was unclear what the dome's post-celebration role would be, or if it would just be an ugly reminder of hundreds of millions of pounds wasted. Eventually the naming rights to the dome were sold to mobile phone company O2. On July 24, 2007, the dome reopened under the name the O2 Arena after Anschutz Entertainment, the venue's new owners, spent 600 million pounds ($1.2 billion) to renovate the site, adding a 20,000-seat concert arena [source: In the News]. It's now used to host concerts, sporting events, traveling exhibitions and a movie multiplex.