Several thousand fans joined Michael Jackson’s family, friends and high-profile music industry figures to bid farewell to the “King of Pop” at a public memorial service at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles.
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Hundreds of millions of fans prepared to bid farewell to Michael Jackson, as Los Angeles braced itself ahead of the extravagant public memorial service to be held at the 20,000-capacity Staples Centre sports arena in the city's downtown at 10 am (17h GMT).
Meanwhile, scores of Jackson's family and close friends gathered at a private funeral service for the iconic singer around 8 am (1500 GMT) at the Forest Lawn mortuary in the Hollywood Hills area of Los Angeles.
Police early Tuesday said Jackson's body — resting in a 25,000-dollar gold-plated casket — would then be transported to the memorial at the Staples Centre. It was not clear where Jackson's body would be taken after the memorial.
Members of Jackson's family had been seen entering the cemetery late Monday, reportedly for a viewing.
Now all eyes are on the star-studded memorial that comes nearly two weeks after Jackson’s death sent shock waves of grief throughout the music industry and among fans around the globe.
LA police prepared for the possibility of logistical chaos caused by hundreds of thousands of people descending onto the downtown area for a glimpse of the proceedings; an additional 1,400 officers were assigned to provide security. According to France 24 correspondent Gallagher Fenwick, the city blocks surrounding the venue were already sealed almost 10 hours before the memorial was to take place.
A staggering 1.6 million people applied to win free tickets for the event, which were allocated via an online lottery over the weekend. The lottery — which was restricted to US residents due to unspecified legal concerns — offered 17,500 spots for the event: 11,000 of the winners will be granted access to the arena, while the remaining 6,500 fans will watch the ceremony on a giant screen at the Nokia theatre next door. Other seats in the arena will be reserved for Jackson’s family, friends, guests and the news media.
Organizers of the memorial asked those without tickets to watch the event on TV in order to avoid thousands of additional mourners taking to the streets.
The frenzied excitement surrounding Tuesday’s event is a testament to the wide-reaching emotional connection the “King of Pop” managed to forge with the world during the course of his career — despite the singer’s odd physical transformations, the disturbing allegations of sexual molestation levelled against him, and his increasingly erratic public behaviour.
Details of the service have been kept under wraps, but organizers confirmed Monday that Stevie Wonder, Mariah Carey and Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson were among the stars due to participate. The Jackson family also published a list of other possible performers that included Lionel Richie, Shaheen Jafargholi (winner of TV contest “Britain’s Got Talent”), Smokey Robinson and Usher. Among guests expected are basketball players Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant and actress Brooke Shields, as well as Berry Gordy, the founder of the Motown record label.
A live feed of the service will be available free to TV networks, while the event will also be streamed via social networking websites Facebook and MySpace, officials said.
Facebook was preparing for more users worldwide to follow the event than even President Barack Obama's inauguration in January, according to the site’s marketing director.
France 24 will feature special live coverage of the event starting at 6:45 pm Paris time (GMT+ 2).
Date created : 2009-07-07