Michael Jackson lauded in spectacular memorial

Los Angeles, July 7 (DPA) In one of the biggest celebrity send-offs in history, Michael Jackson's family, friends and fans held a memorial service for the late King of Pop Tuesday, as millions of people from around the world tuned in to watch on television and the Internet.

The memorial service opened with soul great Smokey Robinson reading letters of condolence from Diana Ross and Nelson Mandela. Then Jackson's casket was wheeled in as a gospel choir sang.

"In his beautiful and very human heart MJ wanted nothing more than to give to the world and perhaps be loved back in return," said Jackson family pastor Lucious Smith.

"Through his words, his music and his countless good deeds Michael did so much to try to heal our world." Mariah Carey then sang one of Jackson's earliest hits: I'll Be There.

The public tribute followed a private memorial service at a Hollywood Hills cemetery after which Jackson's flower-laden casket was loaded into a hearse for the procession to the Staples Centre, where celebrities and fans entered the arena on a wide black carpet.

There were three notable absences at the services: Jackson's old friend Dame Elizabeth Taylor said, "I love him too much to share my grief with millions of others." Diana Ross said she preferred to mark his death with silence, while his ex-wife Debbie Rowe, who may launch a legal battle for custody of the two children she had with Jackson,

said her attendance "would be an unnecessary distraction to an event that should focus exclusively on Michael's legacy."

Thousands of police deployed in downtown Los Angeles prior to the service as the world's entertainment capital braced for the memorial service of one of the greatest entertainers in history.

Police said the operation exceeded all past events in the city's history, including the 1984 Olympics, the Los Angeles Times reported. Officials had feared that as many as 700,000 fans would gather around the arena and appealed to them to stay home.

Thousands of fans ignored that appeal and crowded behind the barricades that were erected around much of the downtown area surrounding the Staples Centre. But there were no reports of trouble.

"The crowd is much lower then some estimates and after the event starts we will begin to de-escalate our presence, which is good news from a financial standpoint. Very good news," said Los Angeles Police Department Chief William J. Bratton. "The crowds are relatively minimal at the moment. We anticipate that it's going to stay calm."

Jackson died June 25, aged 50, of heart failure.

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