Live 8 puts pressure on G8 leaders
'People power' can change our minds says Britain's Brown
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LONDON, England -- After the success of Live 8, the largest live concert ever held, politicians said people power could make a difference as Group of Eight (G8) leaders prepared to meet to discuss Africa.
Over a million people listened to rock and pop musicians at 10 venues across four continents Saturday demanding that the G8 nations move to help Africa when they meet for a summit in Scotland Wednesday.
Event organizer Bob Geldof, who set up the Live Aid concerts 20 years ago that raised $100 million for Africa, is now pushing for a doubling of aid to Africa, forgiveness of debts and fairer trade rules. (Interactive: Live 8 explainer)
British finance minister Gordon Brown, an advocate of debt relief, said the weight of public opinion had already helped to shape recent agreements on canceling the debts of the poorest nations and upping the amount of aid.
"I think you've seen that ministers around the world have been affected by the strength of public opinion, churches, faith groups, and it does have an impact," Brown told BBC Television.
More than 26 million people worldwide sent text messages on Saturday in support of Live 8, setting a world record for a single event, organizers 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.
"For God's sake, take this seriously. Don't behave normally. Don't look for compromises. Be great," Live 8 organizers said in a joint statement after the concerts ended.
The media in Britain, where the build-up to Live 8 has had a higher profile than in other countries, hailed organizer, rocker Bob Geldof, and the 170 pop acts who graced stages.
"A beautiful day," said the Independent on Sunday. "Is that loud enough for you?" asked the Sunday Times.
Britain's Peter Mandelson, the European Union's Trade Commissioner, said the pressure had to be maintained.
"They can't ignore it," he told BBC Television. "We need to see ... that energy channeled into continuing pressure and interest and attention not just to the issues of humanitarian aid and debt relief, but trade."
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 a total of 200,000 people. (A rock triumph)
The crowd fell silent when Live 8 organizer 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.
"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, Reuters reported.
"History and the generations to come will judge our leaders by the decisions they make in the coming weeks," former South African president Nelson Mandela said after taking the stage in Johannesburg, where the crowd of more than 8,000 people gave him a five-minute ovation.
"I say to all those leaders: Do not look the other way, do not hesitate ... It is within your power to prevent a genocide."
"This is our moment. This is our time. This is our chance to stand up for what's right," U2 frontman Bono told a crowd of 200,000 in London's Hyde Park.
"We're not looking for charity, we're looking for justice," Bono said. "We cannot fix every problem, but the ones we can, we must."
In Philadelphia, on the Independence Day weekend, actor Will Smith called the festivities a worldwide "declaration of interdependence."
"Today we hold this truth to be self-evident: We are all in this together," Smith said. Beamed around the world by satellite, he led the audience in snapping their fingers every three seconds, signifying the child death rate in Africa.
Neil Young performed rousing renditions of "Keep on Rockin' In The Free world" and "O Canada" before 35,000 roaring fans at Canada's event in Barrie, Ontario.
Paul McCartney and U2 opened the flagship show of the free 10-concert festival with a rousing performance of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."
A thunderous roar erupted from the crowd of about 200,000 as icons McCartney and Bono belted out the first line: "It was 20 years ago today..." -- a nod to Geldof's mammoth Live Aid benefit that raised millions for African famine relief in 1985.
Bono, dressed in black and wearing his trademark wraparound shades, wrapped the crowd around his finger, enticing tens of thousands to sing along to the anthemic "One" and "Beautiful Day." The crowd cheered when a flock of white doves was released overhead.
Geldof appeared onstage to introduce Microsoft billionaire and philanthropist Gates, whom the crowd greeted with a rock star's roar.
"We can do this, and when we do it will be the best thing that humanity has ever done," Gates said.
The crowd joined in as REM sang "Man on the Moon," then heard U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan declare: "This is really the United Nations ... The whole world has come together in solidarity with the poor."
As night fell in London, Sting performed "Every Breath You Take" as a message to the G8 leaders -- "We'll be watching you," he sang. The Who belted out their classic "Who Are You?" to a backdrop of images of the G8 chiefs.
And the crowd went wild for the reunion of '70s supergroup Pink Floyd -- the first time guitarist David Gilmour, drummer Nick Mason, keyboard player Richard Wright and bassist Roger Waters appeared onstage together since 1981.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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