|Published:||Dec 10, 2013 5:24 AM EST|
|Updated:||Dec 10, 2013 5:24 AM EST|
JOHANNESBURG (AP) - Mourners are gathering at a stadium near Johannesburg for a massive memorial service honoring Nelson Mandela.
A light rain fell Tuesday as mourners gathered at FNB Stadium in Soweto, the Johannesburg township that was a stronghold of support for the anti-apartheid struggle that Mandela embodied.
Singing, joyous crowds are swelling in the stands despite the rain. Workers still were welding at a VIP area as the first spectators arrived.
Some 100 world leaders are expected. U.S. President Barack Obama landed in South Africa hours before the event was due to start.
Police have promised tight security, and are patrolling a wide perimeter around the stadium. Even so, the first crowds entered the stadium without being searched.
Mandela died Dec. 5 at age 95. He will be buried Sunday.
An eclectic mix of world leaders including President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro will eulogize Nelson Mandela at a massive memorial service Tuesday in South Africa.
The event is being held in the World Cup soccer stadium where the anti-apartheid champion made his last public appearance. FNB stadium is located in Soweto, the black township that was at the center of the violent struggle against apartheid.
A crowd of close to 100,000 mourners is expected, including nearly 100 world leaders.
Besides Obama and Raul Castro, eulogies are to be delivered by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and and China's vice president (Li Yuanchao). Other speakers include the presidents of Brazil, Namibia and India, as well as tributes from Mandela's grandchildren. South African President Jacob Zuma is to give the keynote address.
The stage will be protected by bulletproof glass and police promise "thousands" of officers will secure the stadium.
President Barack Obama is opening a day of remembrance and celebration for his personal hero Nelson Mandela, arriving in South Africa for a memorial service honoring the anti-apartheid icon who died last week at age 95.
Air Force One touched down at a military base near Johannesburg on a rainy Tuesday morning. First lady Michelle Obama, former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton joined Obama on the 16-hour flight from Washington. Former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter were also scheduled to attend the memorial service, but traveled to South Africa separately.
Obama will be among the speakers at Tuesday's memorial, joining tens of thousands of South Africans and dozens of dignitaries at the outdoor stadium in Johannesburg. Obama is expected to speak of Mandela's influence on South Africa and on his own life, while also reflecting on the complexity of Mandela's rise from anti-apartheid fighter and prisoner to president and global icon.