A charity event marking the 80th birthday of the first and last president of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, took place on Wednesday at London’s Royal Albert Hall. The aim is to raise £5 million (roughly $8 million) for children’s charities.
The idea to hold the gala came from Gorbachev’s granddaughters, Ksenia Gorbacheva and Anastasia Virganskaya. It is has been widely supported by celebrities and politicians from both East and West. Speeches at the event were given by former British prime minister Sir John Major, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Israeli President Shimon Peres, legendary French actress Catherine Deneuve and Gorbachev's daughter Irina, who is vice president of the Gorbachev Foundation.
Celebrities to back the campaign include Bono, Jose Carreras, Hugh Grant, Elizabeth Hurley, Alan Rickman and many others. Congratulatory messages from Dmitry Medvedev and Bill Clinton, and world famous artists such as Sting, were heard at the ceremony, while snippets of the most important moments of Mikhail Gorbachev’s life and political and social activity were displayed on screens.
Most of the musical performances, by stars such as pianist Andrey Gavrilov, vocalists Dmitry Khvorostovsky and Catherine Jenkins, were accompanied by the London Symphony Orchestra, directed by maestro Valery Gergiev.The concert also heard popular modern compositions performed by “The Scorpions,” Russian rock musician Andrey Makarevich, Shirley Bassey, Russian singer, songwriter and producer Igor Krutoy, singer Lara Fabian, Mel C of the Spice Girls, Bryan Ferry and Paul Anka.
Gorbachev is widely appreciated by celebrities and prominent politicians around the world for his democracy and peace-building efforts, which were repeatedly praised on the red carpet.
“When Gorbachev was general secretary of the Party”, said British politician Lord David Owen, “he could have had the tanks rolling through East Berlin and prevented the Wall from falling and he didn’t. For that he deserves the Nobel Prize.”
“We have an opportunity to thank someone for being such an extraordinary example of good citizenship, what democracy really can mean and what it means to be King of Life and Hope in the world,” remarked actress Sharon Stone.
“We see people fighting for their freedom and expression and being able to travel freely. I think you can probably draw a straight line to Mikhail Gorbachev and say that he began it,” said actor Kevin Spacey, who together with Sharon Stone hosted the evening.
Gorbachev, who celebrated his 80th birthday on March 2, personally honored people who have “Changed the World” in an award ceremony over the course of the event. The new annual award established by the Gorbachev Foundation and the forum of the Nobel Prize winners is known as the “Gorbachev Award.”Its three categories are “Perestroika,” “Glasnost” and “Uskoreniye” (acceleration). Gorbachev’s awards have been given to those people whose colossal contribution to the development of the world community, culture, social science and technology goes far beyond the concept of existing awards.
There are three nominees in each category. The nominees include American film director Steven Spielberg, U2 frontman Bono, the father of the world wide web Sir Timothy Berners-Lee, and Russian-born American computer scientist and software developer Sergey Brin, who is best known as the co-founder of Google.
The “Perestroika” (or “reform”) award honors prominent contributions to the development of civilization. It was received by the British physicist and computer scientist Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee for invention of the world wide web in 1989, which changed the way the world shares information.
The “Glasnost” (or “openness”) is given for unique contribution to the culture of an open world. The prize was handed by Gorbachev personally to Ted Turner, the founder of CNN.
The “Uskoreniye” (or “acceleration”) award celebrates contributions to modern science and technology and was won by Evans Wadongo, a 25-year-old Kenyan engineer who at the age of 18 designed a solar lamp to help fight poverty in Kenya.
"These three people have each, in their own way, changed the world for their fellow men and women in ways which affect all our lives," Gorbachev stated in a news release.
"Each and every one possesses the ability to make a difference, and the Gorbachev Awards have been established for those people who achieve this and to provide inspiration to all of us to try," said the former Russian president and Nobel Peace Prize winner.