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Rolling Stones to Play in Toronto

The Rolling Stones are scheduled to headline a July 30 outdoor concert to boost tourism in Toronto and southern Ontario after the SARS outbreak.

Other performers at the show, which the rock band and city leaders announced Tuesday, will include The Guess Who, AC/DC and Justin Timberlake. Tickets will cost $16.

Stung by a dearth of visitors in the crucial spring and summer tourism seasons, particularly from the United States, Ontario and Toronto officials have worked for weeks to organize an event they hope will draw hundreds of thousands of people.

The venue, a former air field north of downtown, hosted last year’s visit by Pope John Paul II that drew an estimated 800,000 people to a Mass.

“The people here know Toronto is a great city,” Mayor Mel Lastman said in announcing the concert. “The people here know Toronto is a safe city. After the Stones play here, the entire world will know it.”

In a pre-taped video from Europe, where the band is on tour, Mick Jagger said the purpose is to “help bring back the energy to our favorite city.” The Rolling Stones have rehearsed for major tours in Toronto in recent years.

Dennis Mills, a member of Parliament from Toronto and prime organizer of the show, said the goal is to fill hotels and motels in the region.

“We’re hoping by the end of July that with this event we’ll bring at least 150,000 of our neighbors from the South and fill up every motel and hotel from Niagara Falls right through to Oshawa,” he said.

Toronto has experienced the largest SARS outbreak outside Asia, with health officials reporting 38 deaths since the illness first appeared in early March. The city still had 24 active probable cases hospitalized Monday.

The World Health Organization warned against nonessential travel to Toronto in April. It lifted the warning a week later, but the initial cancellations and a second outbreak of SARS in May have devastated the convention and tourism industry.

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