Elton to perform as the sun goes down on British rule

The magic combination of Elton John, Hong Kong's Urban Services Department and the fulfilment of the second Convention of Peking are coming together in June for celebrations to mark the handover of power in the colony. Elton is the first internationally famous star to have been firmly booked by the Urban Services Department for one of the concerts which will celebrate the transfer of power.

Practically every other famous name in the music world has been mentioned as a potential performer for a handover concert. However, those organising these events have been curiously slow off the mark and are having difficulties booking real superstars at relatively short notice.

But Elton has confirmed. "He is coming to Hong Kong on the last weekend of the handover." Peter Randall, head of public relations at the Hong Kong Tourist Association, said yesterday.

Organisers said they hoped 40,000 people would pack Hong Kong stadium for each of the shows on 28 and 29 June. Thousands of tourists are expected, and - with many hotel rooms already taken by journalists, officials and diplomats, it is likely to be one of the biggest parties in the world this year.

The explanation for Elton John's presence seems to lie in the personal preferences of Hong Kong's Governor. Chris Patten, an avid music lover, is said to be a big fan. He invited Elton to lunch at Government House in 1993.

Elton's songs are extremely popular in China, though he has had less luck with plans to perform on the other side of the border. Authorities in Peking are said to have objected several years ago when the idea was mooted of an Elton John concert within the walls of the imperial Forbidden City in Peking.

Hong Kong plans to spend HK$233 million (pounds 18m) on glitzy ceremonies to mark the handover. The Black Watch will be in attendance, to lend the appropriate note of post-imperial grandeur.

The Union Flag will be lowered for the last time in Hong Kong at midnight on 30 June, marking the end of more than a century and a half of colonial rule. China's red flag will then be hoisted.

Perhaps the most apt number for Elton to perform, given the nervousness amongst the HK population, would be an old concert favourite - "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me".

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