Stars pay tribute to Mandela ahead of 90th birthday

Fri Jun 27, 2008 7:39pm EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - Stars of the screen, stage and sporting arena paid tribute on Friday to Nelson Mandela, whose visit to London was overshadowed by events in Zimbabwe where disputed elections have just ended.

Hollywood actor Will Smith hosted a birthday celebration concert in front of Mandela, who turns 90 next month, and nearly 50,000 cheering fans in London's Hyde Park.

Smith was joined on stage by Formula One racer Lewis Hamilton and pop acts including Queen, Simple Minds, Amy Winehouse, Leona Lewis, Annie Lennox and Razorlight.

The event was organized to support Mandela's HIV/AIDS charity "46664," named after his prison number, and comes 20 years after the London hosted another concert for the statesman when he was still behind bars for his stand against apartheid.

"Twenty years ago, London hosted a historic concert which called for our freedom," a frail-looking Mandela told the waving crowd after they had sung him "Happy Birthday."

"Your voices carried across the water and inspired us in our prison cells far away.

"As we celebrate, let us remind ourselves that our work is far from complete. Where there is poverty and sickness, including AIDS, where human beings are being oppressed, there is more work to be done.

"Our work is for freedom for all ... We say tonight, after nearly 90 years of life, it is time for new hands to lift the burdens. It is in your hands now, I thank you."   Continued...

<p>Former South African President Nelson Mandela speaks during the 46664 concert in his honor in Hyde Park, London June 27, 2008. REUTERS/Andrew Winning</p>