Live 8 rocks the world, but will it help the poor?

  • World
  • Sunday, 03 Jul 2005

By Mike Collett-White and Mark Egan

LONDON/PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - After a galaxy of stars rocked the world in the largest live concert ever held, organisers on Sunday looked to a summit of rich nations to see if people power would change policy on poverty. 

Over a million people listened to rock and pop musicians at venues across four continents on Saturday to demand that leaders of the Group of Eight industrialised countries meeting in Scotland on Wednesday relieve African debt and boost aid. 

The crowd gathers during the Live 8 Italy concert inside Rome's ancient Circus Maximus July 2, 2005. Photo by Max Rossi/Reuters

"For God's sake, take this seriously. Don't behave normally. Don't look for compromises. Be great," Live 8 organisers said in a joint statement after the concerts ended. 

More than 26 million people worldwide sent text messages on Saturday in support of Live 8, setting a world record for a single event, organisers said. They had also expected up to two billion people to tune into the show worldwide. 

In Edinburgh, close to where the G8 meets, 200,000 demonstrators marched peacefully through the city to back the Make Poverty History campaign. 

The media in Britain, where the build-up to Live 8 has had a higher profile than in other countries, hailed organiser, rocker Bob Geldof, and the 170 pop acts who graced stages. 

"A beautiful day," read the front page headline in the Independent on Sunday. "Is that loud enough for you?" asked the Sunday Times. But others are more sceptical. 

In Philadelphia, where hundreds of thousands crammed the streets to hear Will Smith and Stevie Wonder, singer Alicia Keys questioned America's interest in helping Africa. 

"America has a sense of disconnect when it comes to Africa or places that are very far away because many of us, most of us, won't get the opportunity to see those places," she said. 

Limited television coverage in the United States could also dampen the impact of such an impressive show of people power. 


Tokyo kicked off Live 8, which was also staged in the Circus Maximus in Rome and before a crowd of 150,000 in Berlin. 

In Barrie, near Toronto, 35,000 people turned out for the musical feast, while France's concert boasted the Chateau de Versailles as its elegant backdrop. 

The numbers in Moscow's Red Square were low, perhaps unsurprising in a country where more than a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line. In Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela addressed nearly 10,000 people. 

London's Hyde Park had the strongest line-up, with Paul McCartney, Bono, Madonna, Elton John, Pink Floyd, The Who and George Michael entertaining 200,000 people. 

The raucous crowd fell silent when Live 8 organiser Bob Geldof replayed Live Aid footage of dying Ethiopians. After freezing on the image of a girl on the verge of death, the same person, a now healthy Birhan Woldu, was introduced on stage. 

Geldof, behind the Live Aid concerts 20 years ago that raised $100 million for Africa's starving, is pushing this time for a doubling of aid to Africa, forgiveness of debts and fairer trade rules. 

"Mahatma Gandhi freed a continent, Martin Luther King freed a people, Nelson Mandela freed a country. It does work. They will listen," he said. 

But Live 8 has sparked debate over whether making money available to African governments encourages corruption. 

"Throwing money at African governments is not the answer," the brother of South African President Thabo Mbeki wrote. 

"Give the money to the people for productive investment," Moeletsi Mbeki said in the Mail on Sunday. "Africans are perfectly capable of improving their own lot." 

(Reporting by Reuters bureaux) 

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