AN extravaganza, a gala of unparalleled pizzazz . . . the expectations are high and the promises big - the opening of the Hong Kong Stadium next Friday is going to be huge. If you happen to be in the stadium over the next week, you may be fooled into thinking it is mayhem down there - seats are still being hammered into place and barriers erected, and that's just for the stadium itself. For the gala concert, the highlight of which is 50 minutes of laser and sound wizardry from Jean-Michel Jarre, technicians are on a high-octane countdown to get everything in place. On Wednesday morning in a cavernous basement - which has become the headquarters for Andrew Bull's Arena group, which is staging this and a series of concerts for the stadium's opening week - a new drama was unfolding. Hong Kong does not recognise the accreditation of France's biggest pyrotechnic firm, which has been flown over to light up the heavens over the stadium for Jarre's firework show. ''We've got to iron out that particular bureaucratic wrinkle,'' explained Mr Bull, as French and Hong Kong representatives began the task of translating documents from French into English. ''It means more paperwork, more meetings, but we'll deal with it. The show must go on. The show is happening, we can't stop it and that is the approach we have to take.'' The no-nonsense stance signals the start of the behind-the-scenes chaos that is an integral part of any big event. There will be problems, they will be solved and the public will be none the wiser. ''It's about to get very crazy,'' predicted Mr Bull. For almost a year, Mr Bull and his team have sat in offices planning the event with military precision, looking at what could possibly go wrong and working out how they could deal with it. Now it is time for the show to go on. But it is more than just erecting stages, speakers and lights or selling tickets. An event such as this is all about people management, explains Mr Bull: ''It is a people project - you need to manage a lot of different relationships.'' That people management means flying in experts from around the world, housing them, feeding them, keeping them happy so they'll get the job done. While promoters such as Mr Bull have been keeping visiting stars and their entourages happy for many years, the sudden increase in the number of international acts being drawn to our shores means a lot more behind-the-scenes planning and pampering. Anyone who has ever been drawn to a gossip column cannot help but be intrigued by the stories of prima donnas, their excesses and their backstage or on-set demands. At the Hong Kong Stadium, there is ''absolutely no time'' for prima donnas, says Mr Bull. ''Most of the people here are working full-time in their field, they don't have time to think about how fabulous they are . . . and they don't feel very fabulous working in an environment with dust flying around everywhere,'' he said. But what about the main attractions, the people who walk out on a stage to be greeted by the screams of thousands of adoring - and paying - fans? What about those stories of stars demanding red M&Ms in their dressing room, that extra ''entertainment'' beat their beck and call and that only the finest French champagne fill their hotel bar fridges? Guess what - it's all true. Yes, legends and would-be legends of that great fraternity known as rock and roll can be just as demanding and temperamental as the charicatures reveal. The excesses of the 1970s and 80s have given way to a quieter, healthier 90s, but there are still delicate egos to be stroked and demands met. Anders Nelsson has been a fixture on the Hong Kong entertainment scene since he was a King George V schoolboy, and has handled some of the biggest acts to come to the territory, including a star of notorious backstage excess, Elton John. But even John has become a victim of the healthier '90s - when he was originally scheduled to tour here in 1986, his list of demands included fine wines and champagne. In 1993 he requested carrots and health drinks. But the toned-down John hadn't forgotten he was still in the superstar league. He only wanted to stay at The Peninsula, which was under going renovations. Some delicate negotiations ensured that the workmen downed their power tools and took up sandpaper so the performer could get his beauty sleep. Knowing what a star wants delivered and how, is now carefully stipulated in sections of their contracts, which can be a few centimetres thick. ''They have nasty things called contract riders and nowadays they are extremely specific,'' said Mr Nelsson, with a smile. ''Because they are on the road so much they tend to say, if it's Wednesday we want turkey with mashed potato and pumpkin pie, if it's Thursday then they should be served fish. ''It sounds excessive, but it's actually rather sensible because they are travelling so much and suffering jetlag, they don't want the added aggravation of eating the same meal three times in a row. Some are a little more demanding, stating specific wines from specific vineyards, but most of it is negotiable. ''Mainly they want the comforts of home, but you can get the odd prima donna who freaks out if the carpet is the wrong colour.'' They can also be very down to earth, as the Entertainment Company found with John Mayall. ''We all had a chuckle over his backstage requests - a few roast chickens, local and imported beer, a bottle of scotch and 'none of that smelly gourmet shit', which was underlined,'' Mr Nelsson said. ''It is all part of the contract, all part of the deal - if you're going to bring out an act, you've got to pay the price. It's all part of the promotions business. ''It is the promoter who can pull it all off, who will get the big names - they all talk to each other and every little bit helps.'' To make sure things run smoothly for the visiting performer, an advance party arrives in Hong Kong to check all arrangements are in place. Alex Ng is the only full-time rock and roll fixer in Hong Kong, with her company Quid Pro Quo, and it is to her that many promoters turn to make sure everything is just right. It is her job to fulfil those contract riders to the letter, even if it means getting a particular brand of beer by courier or making sure the dressing room furniture is just right. Ms Ng has several descriptions for her job - babysitter, mother, middleman and diplomat. ''You have to be an invisible servant when you're supposed to be and you have to be front and centre when you have to,'' she said. ''You have to act out roles and it varies, but you are assigned to make them feel comfortable.'' Quid Pro Quo's job starts at the airport when Ms Ng meets the ''talent'' and the team off the plane. Her first priority is to find out who does what and who's important. ''They all come with their own set of politics and their own resentments, and sometimes you are used as a foot soldier between the camps,'' she said. ''And nine times out of 10 they will introduce themselves by saying, 'I don't mind working with women, but . . .' you have to adjust to their personalities and characters.'' Years of psychology classes at college have paid off, she says, adding personality spy to her job description. Giving an idea of what her job is really like, she said: ''The talents are like sheep, these people can't get it together to do their own thing. You have to do everything for them, their job is not to do it for themselves, their job is to be led around. It's sad.'' Doing everything for them can mean just that - getting videos from KPS, buying the computer gadgets they want, organising a guitar because they left their's at home. When it is her responsibility to get the stage clothes laundered, she will take them home and do it herself - ''you can't give it to Lucky Steam Laundry and hope for the best''. When Chicago couldn't go on because the band's original cow bell was cracked, Ms Ng got out a welding kit and fixed it. It can also mean running around Lan Kwai Fong picking up credit cards left at bars, as she had to do for INXS, or finding lost band members. When that happens Ms Ng and her staff literally hit the streets and find them - ''we're like a SWAT team''. Bob Dylan didn't like the laminated backstage passes, so a whole set of new ones had to be ordered. Diana Ross wanted ''oatmeal coloured walls'' backstage, Elton John wood panelling, Chris Isaak had a supply of boxer shorts in his contract rider. Bambi Watkins runs the publicity company Wild Palms, and it is people such as Ms Ng who she relies on to help her out when waiters turn up expecting to see the show after being invited along by the band the night before. It is to Ms Ng she turns to make sure the stars get to a press conference on time or pose for photographs. ''When I went backstage for the first time, I saw all these posters plastered over the walls which said, 'today is Monday, you are in this town and playing at this venue','' Ms Watkins said. ''They really don't know which country they were in. It makes you realise how much has to be done for these guys. ''There are so many bits of the pie, so many elements that have to brought together to present a good face for the media and the public. ''Sometimes your natural inclination is to say: 'Oh for God's sake!' But when you have just four hours before they're on stage, you don't have time to offend people and mend bridges.'' Why do they all do it - are they masochists? ''The show has to happen, Hong Kong has to be entertained,'' Ms Ng said, but the words could have come from any one of the territory's growing number of promoters, fixers and publicity agents who keep the wheels of rock and roll turning behind the scenes. And with a brand new 40,000-seater stadium coming on stream, there will soon be more acts for them to deal with, one way or the other.