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Teary-eyed, the world heads to Mandela's memorial

December 10, 2013 13:33 IST

Teary-eyed, the world heads to Mandela's memorial

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The FNB Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa, can hold over 90,000 people.

But on the overcast morning of Tuesday, March 10, this massive stadium may not be enough to hold the hundreds of thousands of people who will turn up to pay their homage to Nelson Mandela for the last time.

Mandela -- icon of anti-apartheid struggle, former President of South Africa and one of the greatest world leaders ever -- passed away on December 5.

He had been suffering from a recurring lung infection and a prolonged spell of ill-health.

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Photographs: Samsul Said/Reuters

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Teary-eyed, the world heads to Mandela's memorial

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Madiba, as he was lovingly called by the people of the Rainbow Nation (a term coined by Mandela himself to describe the multi-ethnic heritage of South Africa), had a special bond with this stadium.

He had made his first major speech here after being released from prison in 1990.

The stadium had also witnessed his last major public appearance during the 2010 football World Cup.

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Image: -People start singing as they arrive for a mass memorial for Nelson Mandela
Photographs: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

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Teary-eyed, the world heads to Mandela's memorial

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Presidents, prime ministers and princes from across the world will make their way to FNB Stadium to attend the memorial service .

Heads of as many as 53 countries and States are expected to attend the memorial service.

Three United States Presidents will also be in attendance.

President Barack Obama has already reached Johannesburg with First Lady Michelle Obama. Former President George W Bush and his wife Laura accompanied the Obamas on Air Force One.

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Image: US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are escorted upon their arrival on Air Force One to attend a memorial service for Nelson Mandela
Photographs: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

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Teary-eyed, the world heads to Mandela's memorial

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Former President Bill Clinton, his wife and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and daughter Chelsea will also attend the memorial.

The Prince of Wales, United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon are some of the other high-profile attendees.

Musician Bono, supermodel Naomi Campbell and talk show host Oprah Winfrey, all of whom shared a special relationship with Mandela, will also attend the event.

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Image: A projection of the face of former South African President Nelson Mandela and his clan name Madiba is projected onto the face of Table Mountain in Cape Town
Photographs: Mark Wessels/Reuters

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Teary-eyed, the world heads to Mandela's memorial

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President Pranab Mukherjee, who is leading the Indian delegation to the memorial, has already arrived in Johannesburg.

He is one of only six heads of state who will address the crowd at the memorial service.

He will join Obama, Brazilian leader Dilma Rousseff, Hifikepunye Pohamba of Namibia and Raul Castro of Cuba as well as Chinese Vice-President Li Yuanchao on the podium to address the crowd.

President Mukherjee is accompanied by United Progressive Alliance Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj, Union Commerce Minister Anand Sharma, Communist Party of India - Marxist leader Sitaram Yechury and Bahujan Samaj Party leader Satish Mishra, reflecting the high-esteem Mandela held across the entire political spectrum in India.

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Image: -A woman writes on a wall next to the house where Nelson Mandela resided in when he lived in the township of Soweto
Photographs: Yves Herman/Reuters

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Teary-eyed, the world heads to Mandela's memorial

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"My delegation and I hope to convey to the government and people of South Africa the intense grief and personal loss that we in India feel over the sad demise of the great soul -- our beloved Madiba," he said.

Mandela, who had often acknowledged peace icon Mahatma Gandhi as one of his greatest influences, shared a warm relationship with India.

Soon after his release from prison after 27 years, Mandela had travelled to India in October 1990 in Delhi and Kolkata, where he was given an unprecedented public reception.

He was also conferred with India’s highest civilian award -- the Bharat Ratna.

As the first president of post-apartheid South Africa, Mandela later visited India twice in 1995 and 1997.

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Image: Nelson Mandela with singer Bono
Photographs: Reuters

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Teary-eyed, the world heads to Mandela's memorial

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Mandela’s friends and family members, including four of his grandchildren, will speak at the memorial.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon will also pay tribute to the icon.

After Tuesday’s memorial service, Mandela's remains will lie in state for three days at the government building in Pretoria, where he was sworn in as president in 1994.

He will be buried on Sunday in Qunu, 450 miles south of Johannesburg, at an event only a few world leaders are expected to attend.

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Image: N Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon tours Johannesburg's Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory
Photographs: Ihsaan Haffejee/Reuters

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Teary-eyed, the world heads to Mandela's memorial

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The South African government has reportedly pulled out all stops while making arrangements for the memorial service.

The country’s police had reportedly drawn up a plan for such an occasion after Mandela fell critically ill earlier this year.

Police officials have been banned from releasing any details about the security arrangements to the press.

Private vehicles are not being allowed to ply anywhere near the stadium. The authorities have kept other locations and facilities on standby if the FCB Stadium fails to contain the overflow of thousands of mourners.

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Image: eople walk around a memorial for former South African President Nelson Mandela as they lay wreaths of flowers and take photos during a joint session of parliament held in tribute to him in Cape Town
Photographs: Mark Wessels/Reuters
Tags: Mandela , FCB

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