Gorbachev celebrates 80th with sparkling London party

30th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

A host of stars from the world of politics, music and film gathered to celebrate former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's 80th birthday at a charity gala event in London on Wednesday.

Statesmen and Russian oligarchs were to converge at the Royal Albert Hall for the party to celebrate his achievements, hosted by Hollywood stars Kevin Spacey and Sharon Stone.

Ticket prices range from £195 ($310, 220 euros) to £100,000 for an exclusive box.

The event is aimed at raising millions of dollars for cancer charities, including The Raisa Foundation, named in honour of the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize winner's late wife.

Israeli President Shimon Peres, Hollywood action hero and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, former British prime minister John Major and Earl Charles Spencer, brother of Diana, princess of Wales, are all to attend.

The eclectic guest list also includes actresses Goldie Hawn and Milla Jovovich and England football manager Fabio Capello.

"This gala has been organised to honour Mikhail Gorbachev, a man who truly changed the world for the better through his actions and example," said Leonid Shlachover, the event's general producer.

"This event will celebrate his achievements by bringing together major artists from East and West in a night of celebration."

Organisers told The Times the event would cost between £2 million and £3 million to stage.

Russian tycoon and press baron Alexander Lebedev, who is holding a fundraiser of his own for Gorbachev's charities in June, told The Times newspaper he had refused to underwrite the gala due to concerns over its costs.

"They said they wanted to raise £9 million and out of that £4 million will go to cover the costs and then they stopped. I said I'm not participating."

German rockers The Scorpions were to play their global hit "Wind of Change", which captured the spirit of the times as the communist bloc fell apart.

Performers from Britain were to include singer Shirley Bassey, Roxy Music frontman Bryan Ferry, Spice Girl Melanie C, opera singer Katherine Jenkins and the London Symphony Orchestra.

Canadian-American singer Paul Anka, who wrote the lyrics to Frank Sinatra's hit "My Way", was to give a performance.

A host of Russian musicians were to appear, among them opera baritone Dmitry Hvorostovsky, long-standing rock band Mashina Vremeny and pianist Andrei Gavrilov.

Gorbachev's perestroika and glasnost reforms altered the course of history by burying the Soviet Union and liberating eastern Europe.

He turned 80 on March 2, marking the occasion by advising Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin against running for a third term as president and warning about the dangers of Arab-style social revolt.

© 2011 AFP

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