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Jackson fans face nervous wait

THE more than 1.6 million fans who registered for tickets to Michael Jackson's memorial service will get word this morning (Beijing time) on whether they will be among the ones able to attend.

Fans had to register for free at the Staples Center Website on Saturday for the random drawing of 8,750 names.

Each person selected will receive two tickets and will be notified by e-mail after 11am (1800 GMT), according to a Staples Center news release.

The tickets will admit 11,000 people to the Staples Center, plus 6,500 in the Nokia Theater overflow section next door.

Before the drawing, officials of AEG, the owner and operator of the Staples Center, will "scrub" the entries to eliminate duplicates and any that are suspected of being made by automated systems, or so-called "go-bots," Jackson family spokesman Ken Sunshine said in a statement.

Winners will receive a unique code and instructions on how to pick up their tickets today at an off-site distribution center. When they pick up their tickets, a band will be placed on their wrists.

Fans must have both the ticket and the wristband to enter Staples Center for tomorrow's ceremony. Wristbands that have been ripped, taped or tampered with will be declared void.

Sunshine said these steps were being taken to prevent ticket-scalping.

City officials are preparing for huge crowds.

Assistant Police Chief Earl Paysinger says as many as 700,000 people may try to reach the arena, even though a wide area around Staples Center will be sealed off to people without tickets.

City Councilwoman Jan Perry strongly urged people to stay home and watch the memorial on television.

The ceremony will not be shown on Staples' giant outdoor TV screen and there will be no funeral procession through the city.

No details were given about the actual memorial events, which come as the nation's second-largest city struggles with a US$530 million budget deficit. Perry said the cost of police protection for "extraordinary" events like the memorial was built into the Police Department's budget, but she still solicited help for "incremental costs."

Last month, donations covered about US$850,000 of the city's US$1 million cost for the Los Angeles Lakers' NBA championship parade. Critics had blasted the idea of using city money when it is considering layoffs to close its budget gap.


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