February 18, 2006

Fans, cops wait for Stones to start it up in Rio

By Angus MacSwan

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (Reuters) - Fans poured into Rio de
Janeiro from around the globe and a huge police operation swung
into action for what will be one of the biggest rock concerts
ever -- a free show by the Rolling Stones on the city's famed
Copacabana Beach on Saturday night.

A Carnival atmosphere took over the beach area, as fans
gathered in front of the stage built on the sand or milled
around outside the luxury Copacabana Palace Hotel where the
band is staying.

Lazaro Rosas, a 26-year-old artist, was sitting in his tent
on the beach on Saturday morning. He had staked out the spot
three days ago after spending a month making his way to Rio
from Porto Alegre in southern Brazil.

"I wanted to see a legend, a myth," he said. Asked if he
thought the Stones should still be rocking in their 60s, he
said: "Time is relative. They are very strong."

Other fans had come from Japan, Britain, Norway and North
America. Fleets of buses bringing people from elsewhere in
Brazil and Latin America blocked city streets.

Tom Nolan, a 62-year-old businessman from upstate New York,
said he has paid $750 for two tickets to see them in Albanyin
September and had decided he could not miss the Rio gig.

"They are an inspiration to our generation," he said,
drinking beer in a beach bar. "They have given the world so
much and they are still cranking it out."

More than 1 million fans are expected to watch the show,
part of the "Bigger Bang" tour which opened in the United
States last August and was the top-grossing rock tour of 2005.

Squads of paramilitary police deployed across the
crime-ridden city to control crowds and prevent clashes and

More than 2,000 officers were moving into the Copacabana
area, which was sealed off to traffic. Another 4,000 took up
positions elsewhere in the city, including in several "favela"
slums, which are ruled by heavily-armed drugs gangs.

Six people were killed on Wednesday night when a gang from
Copacabana invaded the Rocinha favela. On Saturday morning, the
tortured corpses of five youths were found in the Niteroi

Rio's security chief Marcelo Itagiba earlier this week
questioned the wisdom of having a free show on Copacabana
Beach, and letters in newspapers asked why the police were
unable to prevent the Rocinha clash yet mobilize for the
Rolling Stones.


The veteran British rockers were ensconced in suites in the
Copacabana Palace. Singer Mick Jagger, 62, spent most of Friday
with his 7-year-old Brazilian son Lucas, the result of his
fling with model and TV presenter Luciana Gimemez, who lives in
Sao Paulo.

Gimenez is staying at the hotel as his guest, one of around
4,000 VIPs of the band, promoters and sponsors who will watch
the show from a special enclosure around the stage.

The masses will be 100 yards (meters) back, separated from
the VIPs by a cordon of police. Two police launches will also
patrol the bay to keep fans in boats from getting too close.

The show will be filmed for broadcast in the United States
later this month and possibly will be released on DVD.

It is being billed as the largest rock concert ever, but
the Guinness Book of Records gives that honor to a show by Rod
Stewart on New Years Eve's 1994, also on Copacabana Beach,
which reportedly drew 3.5 million people.