The NHS has officially beaten Prince’s record for holding the longest residency at the O2 Arena in Greenwich.

No longer an NHS training facility, the O2 Arena has this week reopened its shopping facilities and released plans to reopen Up at The O2, though all shows currently remain cancelled with no return date.

But the venue, which holds a capacity of 20,000 people, has been put to good use during the pandemic and subsequent lockdown as it was taken over by the NHS.

The O2 Arena closed to the public in March, but reopened in April as an NHS coronavirus training facility to supply staff to the Nightingale hospital set up to tackle the outbreak.

Whilst the facility was stood down at the end of May, it has been announced that the NHS has now overtaken Prince for holding the longest residency at the O2 Arena.

Prince, who died in 2016, had performed at the O2 Arena for 21 consecutive nights back in 2007, spending more than 50 hours on stage and playing more than 500 songs.

The live-music venue, owned by AEG, served as an NHS facility for 44 days, making them the new holders of the record.

While the venue remains closed to the public, a phased reopening of parts of it is planned for summer, with the ICON Outlet shopping centre among the initial stages.

In line with government guidance allowing shops to open on June 15, the Icon Outlet shopping facility has now reopened.

A number of measures have been brought in to ensure the facilities are safe and socially distanced, including card only payments and regular cleaning.

New hygiene measures and a one way system have also been introduced to prevent overcrowding.

It has also been announced that Up at The O2, the attraction allowing people to walk on the venue’s doomed roof strapped to a harness, will be opening in early July.

However, the rest of the venue, including the O2 Arena, remains closed, and so far there is no return date for shows.

To mark the building’s role during the coronavirus pandemic, the NHS education team has signed an artwork of a nightingale with rainbow wings, created by British artist and illustrator Madeleine Floyd.

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The framed piece will be hung in the O2 Arena’s backstage area.

The O2’s deputy general manager Danielle Kennedy-Clark said: “We’ve hosted some real heroes during these past few weeks and it has been a privilege for AEG, along with our partner O2, to have been able to play our part during these challenging times.

“This has been our most important residency to date and we’re grateful to the team for this special piece of artwork to remind us of such a poignant time.”