July 2, 2005

Live 8 to rock the world into helping the poor

By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - A galaxy of rock and roll stars willgrace stages across the globe on Saturday for what is beingbilled as the greatest music show ever, in a bid to putpressure on world leaders to do more to help the poor.

Live 8, an expanded version of the Live Aid sensation 20years ago, will take in 10 cities and four continents, kickingoff in Tokyo in the east and ending in North America in thewest.

In London, boasting arguably the strongest line-up of the10 concerts planned, Paul McCartney and U2 frontman Bono aredue to open proceedings before more than 200,000 fans with arendition of "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."

Unlike 1985, when an estimated 1.5 billion televisionviewers tuned in to watch Live Aid and donated over $100million for Ethiopia's famine victims, organizers have theInternet and mobile phones to help them reach an even biggeraudience.

Organizer Bob Geldof wants the event to be about peoplepower, not money. His aim is to force leaders of the Group ofEight major industrialized nations meeting in Scotland nextweek to do more to alleviate poverty, particularly in Africa.

"Ten concerts, 100 artists, a million spectators, twobillion viewers, and one message ... to get those eight men, inthat one room, to stop 30,000 children dying every single dayof extreme poverty," the Live 8 Web site said.

In a letter to the leaders published on Saturday, the Live8 organizers said: "Just as people demanded an end to slavery,demanded women's suffrage, demanded the end of apartheid -- wenow call for an end to the unjust absurdity of extremepoverty."

Specifically Geldof wants a doubling of aid to poorcountries, cancellation of debt to nations struggling to makeends meet and fairer international trade rules.


Geldof has faced criticism in the build-up to Live 8,particularly for his handling of African artists who werelargely excluded from the main concert line-ups.

Musician Peter Gabriel stepped in with a separate, smallergig for African performers, and Johannesburg has been added tothe list of venues, but that has not been enough to preventGeldof's detractors from accusing him of "cultural apartheid."

In South Africa the success of the gig is uncertain, withpromoters apparently doing little to publicize the event.

And those who plan to attend a concert featuring mostlylocal acts and few big names are skeptical about whether itwill change anything.

"I've got hope the concert tomorrow will bring nice thingsto Africa but they keep promising things and they don'thappen," said Bafana Konyama, who sells fake designer trainersfrom his street stall in the center of Johannesburg.

There are also question marks over how smoothly Live 8 willrun. Organizers say they have had eight weeks to plan a show ona par with the Olympic Games in terms of the complexity of thetechnology and size of the potential audience.

But the initiative, costing around 25 million pounds ($45million) to stage, has been widely praised by aid groups, andGeldof can point to a recent $40 billion debt forgiveness dealand U.S. pledges to double aid to Africa as signs of progress.

"We're on the way," he said. "It's incredible to thinkafter 20 years we're almost there."

London, at least, looks set to be a sell-out.

More than 200,000 people are expected in Hyde Park to heara cast including Elton John, Madonna and Pink Floyd.(Additional reporting by Andrew Gray in London, Jeremy Lovellin Edinburgh and Rebecca Harrison in Johannesburg)