Presidents and prime ministers, celebrities and royals joined tens of thousands of South Africans to pay tribute to Nelson Mandela on Tuesday, in a memorial service celebrating a man seen as a global symbol of reconciliation. In what has been billed as one of the largest gatherings of global leaders in recent history, world leaders from U.S. President Barack Obama to Cuba's Raul Castro gathered alongside street sweepers, actors and religious figures to pay tribute to the revered statesman who died last Thursday, aged 95. Despite the pouring rain, the atmosphere inside Johannesburg 's FNB stadium was celebratory, with people dancing, blowing vuvuzela plastic horns and singing songs from the anti-apartheid struggle.Around them, huge poster pictures of Mandela hung inside the stadium.
The world of entertainment also was well represented, with South African actress Charlize Theron and U2's Bono in attendance. Celebrity guests also included Oprah Winfrey and Naomi Campbell.
Mandela's widow, Graca Machel, and his former wife Winnie Mandela embraced and kissed as they arrived.Paying tribute to his uncle, Gen. Thanduxolo Mandela gave thanks for the outpouring of respect from around the world. "This universal show of unity is a true reflection of all that Madiba stood for -- peace, justice, unity of all mankind," he said. "Let us pledge to keep Madiba's dream alive."
Working off plans developed for years in secret, the South African government planned to use an elite military task force, sniper teams and canine teams to help secure the stadium, In addition, helicopters and military jets frequently fly overhead. Should anybody, anything dare to disturb or disrupt this period of mourning and finally taking and accompanying the former president to his last resting place, then that person will be dealt with," Brig. Gen. Xolani Mabanga said Monday. South African officials wouldn't give details about their security plans -- how many police officers, how many troops, precautions to keep the stadium weapons- and explosives-free. "But we can assure that all necessary steps have been taken, and that is why the leadership of the world and former leaders of the world have confidence to come to our country at this time to share with us this moment,"