Michael Jackson postpones start of 02 dates

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Four of Michael Jackson's This Is It concerts have been pushed back, it was announced today, as organisers emphasised the decision had nothing to do with the state of his health.

They said the dates were moved due to the sheer magnitude of the spectacle and the desire for all of Jackson's fans attending the opening nights get the same high quality experience planned for all 50 shows.

The first scheduled show on July 8 at London's O2 arena will now take place a few days later on July 13.

But fans with tickets for three other initial concerts will have to wait around nine months until spring 2010 if they want to make it to the rescheduled concerts.

A show scheduled for July 10 will be moved to March 1 2010, a July 12 date will be moved to March 3 2010, and a concert for July 14 will now take place on March 6 2010.

Promoters and producers AEG Live stressed that anybody who cannot make the rescheduled dates for any reason will receive a full refund of the ticket and booking fee.

Randy Phillips, president and CEO of AEG Live, said the decision was a "tough" one to make, but the show, costing more than 20 million dollars, had grown in size and complexity.

He said there were no more plans to change any more dates, although "if Michael were to get ill, that's possible".

Mr Phillips said the date changes had "absolutely nothing to do with (Jackson's) health."

Jackson's creative collaborator Kenny Ortega said the original plan "would have put us into the O2 one night before we opened to the world...

"It just wasn't practical for safety reasons and professional reasons."

Asked during a press conference held from the United States over the internet about 50-year-old Jackson's health, Mr Phillips said: "I would trade my body for his tomorrow.

"He's in fantastic shape."

He dismissed health fears about Jackson and said he was a "magnet" for fabricated stories, adding: "He's not dying of skin cancer."

Mr Ortega said of the changes: "These choices were made purely based on the practical needs and the responsible needs of putting up a first class production."

He added: "Physically and mentally we're having a blast. We're having a great time.

"This is a high time for Michael, he's enjoying this. He's loving the creative process."

Mr Ortega promised "the concert of a lifetime" and said: "We have all been inspired to really raise the bar on our thinking."

Asked if there would be a royal presence for the King of Pop, Mr Phillips said: "The Royal Family will certainly be invited."

There has also been much speculation over the insurance for the shows, and Mr Phillips said: "We have insurance for the first 23 days in place."

He said that negotiations were taking place for greater coverage.

Asked whether Jackson will debut new music, Mr Ortega said the content of the show would remain a secret, but he said he had heard some of Jackson's new material and it was "awesome".

Mr Phillips said of the show: "It's going to cost us well north of 20 million dollars and it's incredible...

"This is one hell of a show. It's going to be worth the wait."

Fans can log on www.MichaelJacksonLive.com for further information and call the hotline 0844 277 9982 or email MichaelJacksonticketmaster.co.uk .

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