World watches Michael Jackson memorial service

An eerily similar Michael Jackson impersonator performs for devotees in China Tuesday.
As the funeral for Michael Jackson got under way in California Tuesday, fans of the King of Pop gathered in locations across the globe to pay homage to their idol.

Thousands of fans poured in to Los Angeles en route to the public memorial service at the Staples Center arena, while Jackson’s family and closest friends attended a private gathering at the Hollywood Hills Forest Lawn cemetery before going on to the memorial downtown. In Germany, thousands of Jackson fans have been offered the chance to watch events in Los Angeles live at Berlin’s O2 World arena. Organizers of the event dubbed “Trauerfeier,” (translated as Sadness Party) said the screening is free but with a limited number of tickets available. British fans will be given a similar opportunity in London, with a giant screen scheduled to show the event outside the city’s O2 Arena. Jackson was scheduled to play a series of 50 concerts at the arena from July 13 — hundreds of fans are expected to converge on the venue next week to mark the date. Images from around the globe » Elsewhere in London, the cast of West End musical “Thriller Live” will pay its own tribute during their Tuesday evening performance at the Lyric theater. The entire cast of the show will gather on stage for a spoken tribute, before inviting the audience to hold a minute’s silence.

Michael Jackson: The Memorial

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The theater, which dimmed its lights in honor of the star when he died on June 26, has become a shrine to Jackson, with devoted followers holding vigils and leaving cards and messages at the buildings entrance. South African former president Nelson Mandela paid his respects to Jackson in a statement read to the audience at the Los Angeles memorial by singer Smokey Robinson. “We had great admiration for his talent and that he was able to triumph over tragedy on so many occasions in his life. Michael was a giant and a legend in the music industry. And we mourn with the millions of fans worldwide,” Robinson said, relaying Mandela’s message. “We also mourn with his family and his friends over the loss of our dear friend.” In Japan, meanwhile, hundreds of fans gathered at a Tower Records store — where Jackson twice visited — in downtown Tokyo to watch his videos on a big screen. Followers were even being offered the chance to take a photograph next to a footprint left by MJ when he last visited the store. Thousands of other fans have been following the coverage online via CNN. Jackson’s death on June 25 nearly brought the Web to a standstill with several sites buckling under the sheer weight of traffic. The memorial service promises to be no different with organizations bracing for another huge volume of traffic.

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“I can watch from the office without leaving my desk,” Jo Henry commented on Facebook. “Today is a sad day and we all wish we can be there to show our support to the Jackson’s but for some of us we have other obligations, so thank you CNN for sharing this with me.” Vedita Juggernauth in Finland, also on Facebook, said: “I can’t believe I’m watching his funeral on stream, still doesn’t seem real.” Defiant Facebook user Cynthia Obeto, from Lagos, Nigeria, declared that she “doesn’t care if she gets caught right now watching MJ’s memorial in the office.” Jackson fans were also making themselves heard on Twitter. Pandamares wrote: “Gonna watch the Michael Jackson memorial with my mom. Still so so sad over this.”

A post from k2carebare read, “No matter what you thought of the man…remember his music and his message.” Manicmandaonly said: “RIP MICHAEL JACKSON. We will all be raising a few glasses to celebrate ur life and sadly your passing. The legend lives on in our hearts XX.”