Britney Spears and ‘N Sync are among 98 artists scheduled to appear. Half of the performers will be from Brazil. South American stars Fernanda Abreu, Pato Fu, and Funk ‘n Lata have already signed on.

Media giant AOL, which recently launched a Portuguese-language site in Brazil, is the event’s major sponsor. AOL is planning to host a series of cyber “spaces” at the concert, where people can “communicate with the world,” according to impresario Roberto Medina, who began the Rock In Rio concerts in 1985.

The debut 10-day event saw an estimated 1.3 million people turn out to see James Taylor, The B-52’s, The Go-Go’s and many others. The second Rock In Rio show came in 1991 featured Guns ‘N Roses, Santana, Queen, George Michael, Run-DMC, Megadeth, and Billy Idol, among others.

Next year’s extravaganza will unfold on three stages in a festival area west of central Rio de Janeiro. The site is being designed to accommodates 1.5 million people for the seven days of shows.

Medina – not known as a conservative guy when it comes to throwing a party – has promised that Rock In Rio For A Better World will come with all of the extras expected at an event of this size. Three thousand workers will be needed to execute his vision, which includes the usual food, drink and vendors, plus heliports and an elaborate public transportation system involving a fleet of 70 buses.

“Without sounding too boastful, the upcoming Rock In Rio For A Better World event will be the biggest gathering yet for any music event, anywhere in the world,” Medina, owner of Brazil’s largest advertising company, said. “What makes it unique are its size and scope. It’s more than a widely diverse music fest; it’s a cultural happening encompassing many facets of life, all for making the world a better place.”

Boastful or not, Medina does wield the power necessary to get virtually all the Brazilian media to support his efforts. The 2001 edition of Rock In Rio will kick off with all the country’s television and radio stations going silent for three minutes to draw attention to the festival.

Medina plans to license coverage of the event in more than 50 countries to attract a potential international TV audience of one billion.

Tickets for Rock In Rio For A Better World will go on sale in October via the festival’s Web site.