Stones' gig at Belgrade racetrack still on despite animal rights activists

Saturday, April 21, 2007

BELGRADE, Serbia -- The Rolling Stones will rock Belgrade this summer even if their performance at the city's main racetrack distresses hundreds of horses stabled at the venue, concert organizers said Friday.

"Preparations for the July 14 concert are going smoothly, there are no problems," Dejan Maksimovic, a director of Music Star Productions, said, shrugging off concerns from an animal rights organization.

Officials of the Hippodrome racecourse acknowledged that some of the finest -- and skittish -- gallopers among the few hundred horses may be given tranquilizers when the Stones unleash their stadium-rocking decibels.

"But we've done that before, this is not the first rock concert at the Hippodrome," said Natasa Pavlovic of the state-run racecourse, adding that an arrangement with concert organizers is nearly finalized. She didn't disclose financial details.

The Organization for Respect and Care for Animals has called for a change of venue, warning of the "inevitable stress that the animals would suffer" from the noise, or from diazepam, which has been used to sedate the animals during previous concerts.

More than 80,000 tickets are being sold for the performance as Serbs hope to finally see the legendary rockers after at least two previous attempts to bring them here failed.

In 2003, a nearly arranged concert in Belgrade was canceled after Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic was assassinated. Plans were scrapped last year after Keith Richards suffered a head injury in a fall from a tree.

"It's a really big thing for us," said Dimitrije Stevanovic, 58. "I know I'll get all tearful when [Mick] Jagger shows up onstage and says, 'Good evening, Belgrade."'


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