Massive Toronto Benefit Gets Underway
Tens of thousands of people settled into Toronto's Downsview Park just a couple of hours after the gates opened for today's (July 30) massive...Tens of thousands of people settled into Toronto's Downsview Park just a couple of hours after the gates opened for today's (July 30) massive Rolling Stones-led SARS benefit concert. Police dealt with at least one unruly fan and paramedics treated some apparently stricken by the heat.
Police estimated some 60,000 fans of the half a million expected for the concert were inside the park by midmorning, wearing hats, carrying water bottles and preparing themselves for 11 hours of music beginning at midday.
For the most part, the concertgoers moved in an orderly fashion through the gates as police let four to six people into the park at a time. But a man who appeared to be in his 30s was arrested for assaulting a police officer, authorities said. And Toronto paramedics reported that at least three people passed out and were being treated on site, likely for dehydration.
"As the day goes on, more and more people are going to be sick," an emergency services spokesman said. One patient was being moved to hospital, he said. Other minor injuries reported were sprained ankles and minor cuts and scrapes because of the unevenness of the field.
Some concertgoers were a bit overwhelmed by not just the thought of taking in acts like the Stones, AC/DC and Rush, but of how the long day would progress. "I'm a little dizzy," said Rebecca Elias, 22, one of the first to enter the park.
Elias expressed some safety concerns, although about 1,300 police officers were to patrol the grounds throughout the day and countless security guards were charged with keeping things in check. "I'm actually a bit nervous," said Elias. "I've spoken to some police officers and some security and they are really too lax for my peace of mind."
The concert, held on the 210th anniversary of the city's founding, is aimed at boosting Toronto's SARS-battered economy. Inside the park, a large sign emblazoned with the word Toronto in giant red letters hung over the concert stage, the middle "o" replaced with a picture of the Stones' trademark tongue logo. An enormous Canadian flag was draped across the back wall of the stage.
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