Czech Republic Magazine

On this Day, in 1996: Michael Jackson kicked off his HIStory World Tour in Prague

On September 7, 1996, the “King of Pop” Michael Jackson kicked off his HIStory World Tour in Prague’s Letná Park in front of a crowd of 125,000 people, making it one of the highest-attended concerts of all time.

In June 1995, Michael Jackson released the double album HIStory, which quickly became the best-selling multi-disc album of all time, with 20 million copies sold worldwide. The album’s first single, “Scream”, a duet with the King of Pop’s youngest sister Janet, notably protests the media’s treatment of Jackson during the 1993 child abuse allegations against him.

After “Earth Song”, the third single released from HIStory, topped the UK Singles Chart for six weeks over Christmas 1995, Michael Jackson finally announced his third worldwide tour to promote his new album. One of Michael Jackson’s most high-tech shows of the time, the HIStory World Tour featured 1,200 tons of sound equipment and included a total of 83 concerts spanning the globe with stops in 57 cities.

The historic tour was set to kick off in September 1996 in Prague where, on September 3, an estimated crowd of 5,000 screaming fans welcomed the King of Pop in front of the Old Town’s InterContinental hotel, blocking a major thoroughfare through the city and grounding traffic to a halt.

During the few days that he spent in Prague ahead of the concert, Michael Jackson took a tour of the Czech capital, visiting the then President Václav Havel at Prague Castle. In the narrow streets of Old Prague, Michael Jackson’s caravan of vehicles, which included numerous television and press vehicles that followed his every move, was helplessly blocked by the sea of fans.

The concert itself was attended by 125,000 people with thousands more cramming behind the erected fence to get a glimpse of the spectacle, making it one of the highest-attended concerts of all time. It is also still to this day one of the largest concert to be held in the Czech capital, second only the Rolling Stones’ historic performance at Strahov Stadium in August 1995.

Find out more about Central European history in our On this Day series.

Headed by Kafkadesk's chief-editor Jules Eisenchteter, our Prague office gathers over half a dozen reporters, editors and contributors, as well as our social media team. It covers everything Czech and Slovak-related, and oversees operations from our other Central European desks in Krakow and Budapest.