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Live 8 rocks world, looks to leaders for change

July 3, 2005

By Mike Collett-White and Mark Egan

LONDON/PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) – They rocked the world inthe largest live concert ever held. Now the stars of the Live 8extravaganza are looking to leaders to respond by doing more tohelp the poor when they meet later in the week.

The ability of people power to make a difference willbecome clearer on July 8 when leaders of the Group of Eight(G8) wealthy industrialized nations end a summit in Scotlandwhere Africa will be high on the agenda.

“Mahatma Gandhi freed a continent, Martin Luther King freeda people, Nelson Mandela freed a country. It does work. Theywill listen,” Live 8 organizer Bob Geldof said.

But initial reaction to the star-studded poverty awarenessgigs was mixed.

While in Britain Sunday newspapers plastered Live 8 imagesand stories across front pages, editions in Africa, thecontinent Live 8 wants to benefit most, paid little heed.

In the United States, with the world’s largest economy,performers acknowledged the difficulty Live 8 had in gettingthrough to the American public.

The New York Times had a front page photograph of the Live8 concert in Philadelphia, where hundreds of thousands crammedthe streets, although its first story appeared on page 6. Therewas barely a mention of Live 8 on early Sunday talk shows.

British finance minister Gordon Brown, an advocate of debtrelief, said public opinion had already helped to shape recentagreements on debt relief and aid. But adding a note ofcaution, he said empowering African people was a “lifetime’swork.”

“I think you’ve seen that ministers around the world havebeen affected by the strength of public opinion, churches,faith groups, and it does have an impact,” Brown told BBCTelevision.

Pope Benedict, addressing crowds in St Peter’s Square a dayafter Rome staged one of the Live 8 concerts, said he hoped theG8 summit would bring genuine and lasting relief to Africa.

Some commentators were unsure, however.

“Rock has carried Africa on to the world’s front pages andtelevision screens. Long live rock!” Italy’s Corriere dellaSera wrote. “But to imagine that rock and aid … are enough tomake Africa progress by as much as one step forward is adream.”

IMPRESSIVE STATISTICS

Over a million people listened to rock and pop musicians atvenues across four continents on Saturday. More than 26 millionpeople worldwide sent text messages on Saturday to support Live8, setting a world record for a single event, organizers said.

They also expected 2 billion people to tune in worldwide,using the Internet, television and radio, although no estimatehas been provided.

In Edinburgh, near where the G8 meets, 200,000 peoplemarched peacefully to back the Make Poverty History campaign.

“For God’s sake, take this seriously. Don’t behavenormally. Don’t look for compromises. Be great,” a Live 8statement said, addressing leaders.

In Britain, newspapers were unanimous in their praise forLive 8 and Geldof, who also pulled off the Live Aid sensation20 years ago that raised more than $100 million for faminerelief.

“A beautiful day,” said the Independent on Sunday. “Is thatloud enough for you?” asked the Sunday Times.

German publications also dedicated considerable space tothe gig in Berlin that attracted 200,000 fans, and Italy’s fourmain dailies highlighted the event on their front pages.

But in Johannesburg, only one newspaper carried Live 8 onits front page.

The concerts brought an unprecedented lineup of talent to10 stages from Tokyo in the east to near Toronto in the west.

London’s Hyde Park had the strongest cast, with PaulMcCartney, Bono, Madonna, Elton John, Pink Floyd, The Who andGeorge Michael entertaining 200,000 people.

The raucous crowd fell silent when Live 8 organizer BobGeldof replayed Live Aid footage of dying Ethiopians. Afterfreezing on the image of a girl on the verge of death, the sameperson, a now healthy Birhan Woldu, was introduced on stage. (Reporting by Reuters bureaux)




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