Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Elton to Sing Happy Birthday to Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela will celebrate his 90th birthday in London on Wednesday at a charity dinner attended by presidents, prime ministers and some of Hollywood's biggest stars.

Mr Mandela's personal vision for world peace, written especially for the dinner in Hyde Park, will be auctioned for a six figure sum in front of an audience including Bill Clinton, the actor Will Smith, Oprah Winfrey, and Gordon Brown.

Jussi Pylkkanen, the president of Christie's Europe, will wield the gavel in the auction which will also include a lifesize bronze bust of Mr Mandela's right hand which was designed to reflect the way he has touched the world.

Gordon Ramsey is preparing the banquet for the 500 guests including Sir Elton John who will serenade Mr Mandela with Happy Birthday. The American actor Forest Whitaker, who won the Oscar and Golden Globe as the Ugandan despot Idi Amin in the Last Scottish King, will compere the proceedings.

The continuing crisis in Zimbabwe will overshadow the dinner which is expected to raise £1 million for Mr Mandela's Aids charity. Mr Mandela is under increasing international pressure to speak out for the first time against the excesses of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe. Gordon Brown and Mr Clinton will make speeches before Mr Mandela responds.

Mr Mandela's AIDS charity, 46664, is taken from his prison number (466) and the year (64) when he was imprisoned on Robben Island. Mr Mandela, 90 on July 18, was freed in 1990 after 27 years.

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