Thousands of people have packed a Los Angeles arena to say a final goodbye to Michael Jackson, the man known as the King of Pop.
The star-studded public memorial for Jackson began Tuesday with Smokey Robinson reading comments from friends of the pop star, including former South African president Nelson Mandela.
Jackson’s golden casket, draped with flowers, was placed in front of the stage at the Staples Center sports complex in downtown Los Angeles for the service.
Speaking at the event, actress Queen Latifah said Jackson was the “biggest star on Earth,” and had a global impact.
Berry Gordy, founder of Motown Records, said Jackson was “simply the greatest entertainer that ever lived.” Performers at the service included singers Mariah Carey and Stevie Wonder.
The memorial service is being aired live over dozens of television networks around the world and the Internet.
Earlier, the Jackson family and close friends attended a private memorial at the Forest Lawn Memorial cemetery – the final resting place for scores of American entertainment celebrities.
An online drawing for free tickets to the memorial at the Staples Center attracted more than 1.6 million people, but only 8,750 people were randomly selected. Each winner received two tickets for the Staples Center ceremony or for the simulcast at the nearby Nokia Theater.
In addition to the fans who received tickets, huge crowds have gathered in the area, with many people from various parts of the world. City tourism officials say the influx of fans could provide a $4 million boost to the city’s struggling economy.
Thousands of police are providing security around the Staples Center, and keeping fans without a ticket from reaching the event.
An entertainment company, Cinedigm Corporation, is broadcasting the service live at about 50 movie theaters across the U.S. free of charge.
The 50-year-old Jackson died suddenly on June 25 in Los Angeles. A cause of death has not been determined, and authorities are investigating whether medications are to blame. Toxicology results are not expected for weeks. voa