The roof of the Millennium Dome was ripped open when a crane tore through the Teflon structure last Thursday.

The crane, which was working inside the structure, pierced the inner and outer panels of the roof, exposing the interior.

The damage was temporarily repaired. But a dome insider said replacement panels would have to be shipped from the USA.

A spokesman for the New Millennium Experience Company confirmed that the roof had been torn, but insisted that the damage was slight.

“A crane put a very small tear in the roof. We patched it and will replace the damaged panel in due course. It’s the equivalent of replacing a tile on your roof.” The spokesman confirmed that new panels had to be ordered from the fabric manufacturer in the USA, but was unable to put a cost on the repair.

The spokesman added that the accident would not delay the dome’s opening and that work on the controversial £800m project was on schedule.