SARSstock: Musicians Rock To Heal Toronto

By Kendis Gibson and Rosemary Jean-Louis, CNN Headline News, September 29, 2003

(CNN) -- The venue was set, the Rolling Stones and their friends were confirmed and the tickets were sold. However, after only two months of planning, crowd control experts were still predicting that the concert to benefit SARS-struck Toronto was a blueprint for disaster.

Organizers sold over 400,000 tickets to the show that was held at an abandoned military base. That same base hosted the Pope's World Youth Day last year.

Ticket-holders either walked for hours or crammed into Toronto's 50,000 rider-an-hour subway system to see their favorite performers.

Despite those inconveniences, fans willingly made the pilgrimage. Some even camped out for 24 hours in order to secure a front-row seat. Some traveled from the United States to make the show.

At $21.50 a ticket, ($16 U.S.) Canadians received a big bang for their bucks with acts like the Rolling Stones, Justin Timberlake, AC/DC, Rush, The Guess Who and the Isley Brothers.

The Stones interrupted the European leg of their 40th anniversary tour in an effort to "bring back the energy of [their] favorite city," said frontman Mick Jagger. Comedian Dan Akroyd hosted the event with some help from Jim Belushi.

The event, dubbed SARSstock, was intended to help Toronto's economy, recently hurt by a SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak.

Similar concerts took place at the Toronto Skydome and Air Canada Centre last month. Several Canadian acts, including Barenaked Ladies, Avril Lavigne, Sarah McLachlan and Sum 41, took part in the June extravaganza, which was simulcast at both venues.

The recent rock fests were part of Ontario's long-term plan to lure tourists back to the city.

The Canadian Tourism Commission predicts nearly $400 million (U.S.) will be lost in tourism business. Forty-two people in Toronto have died of the disease.