Thousands of free tickets for Michael Jackson's Tuesday morning memorial service in Los Angeles will be allotted to fans through an elaborate lottery system, city officials announced today, and service will also be simultaneously telecast worldwide.
"It's the family's wish to create a service and a celebration that all of Michael's fans around the world can be part of," said Tim Leiweke, president and CEO of AEG, which owns the Staples Center, where the service will take place Tuesday at 10 a.m PT.
Leiweke said that the family has made 17,500 tickets available to Michael Jackson's fans so they can be "a part of the service." The remaining 2,500 tickets will be given to family and close friends of the Jackson family at the family's discretion.
Eleven-thousand of the tickets will be for seats at the Staples Center, and 6,500 more will be for seats in the Nokia Theatre, where the service will be broadcast.
There will be no funeral procession preceding the event, and Leiweke declined to answer whether Jackson's body would be displayed during the event.
Fans who wish to go to the memorial service will have until 6 p.m. July 4 to register for tickets on the Web site Staplescenter.com. At the time of the announcement, connection to the site was sporadic.
After the 6 p.m. cutoff, Leiweke said 8,750 names would be "randomly drawn," and would receive two tickets each.
"We will notify those selected that they have a ticket on Sunday between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.," said Leiweke. "Those who were randomly drawn will receive a code to go to Ticketmaster.com and will then be provided with the specifics of where to go."
Leiweke said wristbands would be issued to those who receive tickets, in an attempt to ensure that the ticketing system is "not taken advantage of."
"No tickets will be sold for this memorial," he said.
When asked if they were worried about fraud or resale, Leiweke said, "I'm hoping that people have dignity, and that no one takes advantage of this particular process."
"We're going to great lengths to get tickets in the hands of the fans," he said.
Jackson's memorial service could very well become one of the most widely attended memorials in U.S. history. Though only 17,500 tickets will be issued, it's expected that thousands more people will descend on the city of Los Angeles.
According to various media accounts at the time, 2 million to 4 million people flocked to Rome in April 2005 after Pope John Paul II died. When Princess Diana died in the summer of 1997, at least 750,000 fans gathered in London. And in August 1977, Elvis Presley's funeral at Graceland garnered nearly 80,000 fans.
Also on hand at the press conference was Los Angeles Councilwoman Jan Perry, who addressed fears that the cash-strapped city would be hard-pressed to pay the extra law enforcement that would be required fort the memorial.
"Every year, the city budget is developed and a provision is made in the police department budget to cover the overtime costs of extraordinary events," said Perry. "This is not the first nor the last that the police department will be called on for a special event of this magnitude."
Perry also encouraged Jackson fans preparing to flock to Los Angeles for the memorial to consider staying at home and watching the service on television.