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The O2’s Steve Sayer on arena’s ‘fantastic’ return

The O2’s Steve Sayer is tipping 2023 to be an even bigger year for live music as the business edges back towards normality following the Covid shutdown.

The 20,000-cap, AEG-operated London venue, which hosted the UK’s annual BRIT Awards on 8 February, reopened last Friday with a concert by UB40 featuring Ali Campbell after being closed for a week due to damage caused by Storm Eunice.

And despite the industry enduring a slightly slow start to Q1 due to the spread of the Omicron variant, the arena’s VP and GM tells IQ it is now all systems go.

“The BRITs was really the kickstart for us at The O2,” says Sayer, who succeeded John Langford in the role in 2018. “A week or so later, we were naturally concerned about whether the impact [of the storm damage] was going to go on longer than we thought, but it’s just getting busier and busier from here on in.

“We’re getting back to what The O2 has done for many years, which is six or seven shows a week, back-to-back, for the next few weeks. Dave doing two shows this week has been fantastic – a London artist coming through and headlining his first two shows at The O2 was a major milestone – but we’ve got many more to come.”

Superstar artists set to play the venue in the coming months include Stormzy, Billie Eilish, Dua Lipa, Queen + Adam Lambert and Alicia Keys, while Justin Bieber, Elton John, Ozzy Osbourne and Shawn Mendes are already announced for next year.

“A lot of rescheduled events from the last couple of years have dropped into this year, but we’ve got new shows getting announced all the time and Q4 looks strong,” says Sayer. “It’s been difficult getting dates, not just at The O2, but across the board, and we’ve also got a lot of content already lined up for 2023.

“I think 2023 is probably going to be a bigger year than 2022. We all thought that ’22 would be the record year and the recovery year, and I still think it’ll be a really strong year in terms of the event count and the calibre of the artists playing. But hopefully, from here on in, we’re looking at 18 to 24 months of really strong, bumper content.”

On 18 February, an estimated 1,000 people were evacuated from the Greenwich complex, which also boasts the Up at The O2 attraction, the Icon Outlet shopping centre, a cinema and the 2,800-cap Indigo at The O2, after one of the worst storms to hit the UK in decades ripped a hole in the venue’s iconic roof.

Two shows by Dave set for 21-22 February were rescheduled for the following week but, despite initial concerns, all other gigs in the main arena have been able to proceed as planned.

“We’re in the events business and the one thing we’re great at is keeping the show on the road”

“It was a huge relief to be back up and running after various lockdowns and the impact of that on the arena for the best part of two years,” reflects Sayer. “So to then get the call that part of the tent had torn in the wind wasn’t the best news to get on a Friday,” says Sayer. “At that point, we really didn’t know how long it was going to take, but it was a monumental team effort.

“We had to move on our feet for the first 24 to 36 hours to really understand what it was we were dealing with. But by the Sunday, we were confident that we would be at least partially open within a week if we could create a safe passage for fans using Entrance H, because it was around that area where the roof has been damaged.”

He continues: “We brought in a number of construction experts and structural engineer expertise right away and worked to make the site safe and get back open within just under a week, which was an incredible achievement and a massive tonic for us all.

“There was always going to be speculation that it could be longer and we took a lot of calls from a number of very worried promoters and agents asking, ‘What’s happening with our show? Can you confirm it’s definitely going ahead?’ And we were able to reassure all of those clients quite quickly that it wouldn’t be a long closure, because the arena hasn’t been impacted at all, we just needed to create that safe passage. Fans coming to the Dave shows on Monday and Tuesday experienced that for the first time and it worked pretty well.

“We got a lot of messages of support from across the industry – and some practical support from Dave’s team, who actually had to move two other shows to accommodate moving the two shows at The O2, so I’d like to place on record my thanks to everybody involved in that.”

Other upcoming events over the next couple of weeks include Simply Red (2-3 March), The Lumineers (4 March), Davido (5 March) and the return of the Country to Country festival (11-13 March).

“Fundamentally, we’re in the events business and the one thing we’re great at is keeping the show on the road,” adds Sayer. “After the past couple of years, it was imperative that we did that and everybody at The O2 pulled together to make happen.”

 


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The O2 confirms reopening plans

London’s The O2 has confirmed it will reopen tomorrow (25 February) – a week after closing due to damage caused by Storm Eunice.

An estimated 1,000 people were evacuated from the AEG-operated building last Friday after Eunice – one of the worst storms hit the UK in decades – ripped a hole in its exterior tent fabric.

Two dates by Dave, set for 21-22 February, have been rescheduled to 28 February/1 March but all other shows are proceeding as planned, starting with UB40 featuring Ali Campbell (25 February), after rigorous safety checks deemed the venue safe, secure and structurally sound.

The O2’s Entertainment District and visitor attraction, Up at The O2, will also reopen tomorrow, while Indigo at The O2, which is also located within the Greenwich complex, will reopen for live events from Saturday (26 February).

“Safety will always be our number one priority”

“Confirming our reopening after such a short closure is a huge testament to everyone who is working so hard to get us open again,” says Steve Sayer, VP & General Manager of The O2. “Safety will always be our number one priority and as a venue, we have always been proud of the standards we hold and delivering a best in class fan and artist experience. On behalf of The O2, I would like to thank our partners, the industry, our staff and all the fans for their support and patience.”

Although the hole in the fabric caused by Storm Eunice will remain visible for some time while a permanent solution is put into place, the damage is said to be limited to an isolated area within The O2’s Icon Outlet shopping centre. The section in question will remain closed while essential works continue.

The venue says a “monumental effort “has been made to secure the site over the past few days. The O2 has engaged a team of experts including the structural engineers who originally worked on the building design to address the required repairs. To allow guests who are visiting the arena to enter and exit the venue safely, protected from the elements, a new entrance tunnel has now been constructed by Entrance H.

The O2 will host the Country to Country festival from 11-13 March, and has other shows lined up for 2022 by the likes of Stormzy, Dua Lipa, Billie Eilish, Celine Dion and Queen & Adam Lambert.

 


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The O2 closed until 25 February after storm damage

The O2 is set to remain closed until Friday (25 February) after its roof was damaged in one of the UK’s worst storms to hit the UK in decades.

Chart-topping rapper Dave’s scheduled two-night stand at the 20,000-cap London arena, set for 21-22 February, has been postponed but all other upcoming shows are currently expected to go ahead as planned, starting with UB40 featuring Ali Campbell on 25 February. Events at the 2,800-cap Indigo at The O2, situated within the Greenwich complex, are also due to resume on Friday.

An estimated 1,000 people were evacuated from the AEG-operated building last Friday (18 February) afternoon after Storm Eunice ripped a hole in its exterior tent fabric. Images and footage posted on social media highlighted the extent of the damage.

“The O2 prides itself on being a venue full of entertainment but following Friday’s storm, we’re not quite looking our best,” says a statement from the venue. “We want to continue to provide a safe and secure best-in-class experience for our visitors, so we have made the decision to remain closed until Friday 25 February to give us time to carry out some necessary works on our roof.

“If you have tickets for an upcoming show at the arena, rest assured that we are working hard to make our venue ready and we’re almost there”

“If you have tickets for an upcoming show at the arena, rest assured that we are working hard to make our venue event ready and we’re almost there. For Dave ticket holders, an update on the rescheduled dates will be announced in the in the next 48 hours, please hold on to your tickets, as they will remain valid for the new shows.

“We’d like to thank everyone for all the support we have received. We can’t wait to welcome artists and guests back as soon as possible.”

London Fire Brigade was called to the “partial roof collapse” just before 1.30pm on Friday.

“Firefighters cordoned off the area to ensure no one was injured by any further falling debris,” said station commander Chris Kamara. “There has been no actual collapse or structural damage to the building, but due to the nature of the canvas material which covers The O2, it has come loose in high winds and looks quite dramatic.”

Three people died across the UK during Storm Eunice and more than 75,000 homes still have no power. Another storm – named Franklin – is forecast to hit the UK imminently, although wind gusts from Storm Franklin are expected to be lower than Eunice which triggered two red weather warnings.

“Following the significant impacts of Storm Eunice on Friday, Storm Franklin will bring further high winds for many late on Sunday and into Monday, although not on the same scale as Eunice,” says Met Office chief meteorologist Andy Page.

 

 


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The O2’s roof shredded as Storm Eunice batters UK

The roof of The O2 in London has been severely damaged by the worst storm to hit the UK in three decades.

Storm Eunice has ripped a hole in the exterior panels of the AEG-operated building, which opened as the Millennium Dome in 1999 and was reborn as a multi-purpose arena in 2007.

A red weather warning – meaning a risk to life – is currently in place for London and other parts of the UK. Wind gusts in the most exposed coastal areas could be in excess of 90mph, according to the Met Office.

“Due to today’s adverse weather conditions, we can confirm that there has been some damage caused to the tent fabric in our roof at The O2,” says a statement from the venue. “The affected areas have been cleared and The O2 will remain closed for the rest of the day. The safety of our visitors remains of paramount importance, and we will continue to assess the ongoing situation and act accordingly.”

An estimated 1,000 people were evacuated from the Greenwich complex, which also houses a shopping centre, a cinema and the 2,800-cap Indigo at The O2, but no injuries were reported. Images and footage posted on social media highlight the extent of the damage.

“Crews have made the scene safe and The O2 is now closed until further notice”

London Fire Brigade was called to the “partial roof collapse” just before 1.30pm today (18 February).

“Firefighters cordoned off the area to ensure no one was injured by any further falling debris,” says station commander Chris Kamara. “There has been no actual collapse or structural damage to the building, but due to the nature of the canvas material which covers The O2, it has come loose in high winds and looks quite dramatic.

“Crews have made the scene safe and The O2 is now closed until further notice.”

There is no word as of yet on whether any shows will be affected by the situation. Dave is the next artist due to start a two-night stand at the 20,000-cap arena next week (21-22 February). Other upcoming events over the next few weeks include UB40 featuring Ali Campbell (25 February), Simply Red (2-3 March), The Lumineers (4 March), Davido (5 March) and the Country to Country festival (11-13 March). A Fugees gig, originally planned for tonight, was cancelled last month due to Covid concerns.

Red weather warnings are rarely issued by the Met Office. The most recent warning coincided with Storm Arwen in November 2021, with the last one before that for wind coming in March 2018.

“The red warning areas indicate a significant danger to life as extremely strong winds provide the potential for damage to structures and flying debris,” says Met Office chief meteorologist Paul Gundersen. “Although the most exposed coastal areas could see gusts in excess of 90mph, winds will remain notably strong further inland, with gusts of between 60-70mph for most within the amber warning area, and up to 80mph in a few places.”

 


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