PHOTOS FROM NELSON MANDELA memorial service in Soweto
Barack Obama today paid an emotional tribute to Nelson Mandela, calling the South African leader a 'giant of history' as he spoke at a memorial service in a stadium where around a third of the seats were mysteriously left empty.
The U.S. President, who moments earlier had shaken hands with Cuba's Raul Castro in a historic moment of reconciliation, receivied a rapturous reception for his eulogy at the service in Johannesburg's FNB Stadium, which started an hour late in the pouring rain.
Cyril Ramaphosa, the deputy president of the ruling ANC party who opened the proceedings, said: 'In our tradition, when it rains when you are buried, your gods are welcoming you to heaven.'
Mr Obama arrived almost an hour after the ceremony started, but was greeted with prolonged applause by the crowd - in stark contrast to South African president Jacob Zuma, who was loudly booed whenever he appeared on the stadium's big screen.
When Mr Zuma walked up to the podium to deliver the keynote speech at the ceremony, he was met with a huge chorus of boos, forcing organisers to bring in a choir to drown out the noise of the crowd and save the president's blushes.
Eulogy: U.S. President Barack Obama acknowledges the crowd as he delivers his speech at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg
Eulogy: U.S. President Barack Obama delivers his speech at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela at the FNB soccer stadium in Johannesburg
Fitting setting: A general view of the arena which was the location of Mr Mandela's first speech in Johannesburg after he was released from prison in 1990
Rare display of unity: President Obama shakes hands with Cuban leader Raul Castro in spite of the animosity between their governments
Historic: The handshake between the leaders of the two Cold War enemies came during a ceremony that focused on Mandela's legacy of reconciliation
'His triumph was your triumph': President Barrack Obama is shown on a big screen as he delivers his eulogy to flag-waving and umbrella-holding mourners
Mutual respect: President Obama speaks to Nelson Mandela's widow Graca Machel during the memorial service
Giving his condolences: President Obama kisses Nelson Mandela's widow Graca Machel during the memorial service
Mr Obama opened his speech by thanking Mandela's family, then continued: 'To the people of South Africa - people of every race and walk of life - the world thanks you for sharing Nelson Mandela with us.
'His struggle was your struggle. His triumph was your triumph. Your dignity and hope found expression in his life, and your freedom, your democracy is his cherished legacy.'
He continued: 'Mandela taught us the power of action, but also ideas; the importance of reason and arguments; the need to study not only those you agree with, but those who you don't.'
Referring to the anti-apartheid icon's friendship with his own prison warders, the President said: 'It took a man like Madiba to free not just the prisoner, but the gaoler as well.'
Sombre occasion: Members of Nelson Mandela's family take their seats amid heavy rain ahead of his memorial service at the FNB Stadium in Soweto, near Johannesburg
Prominent role: U.S. President Barack Obama, who will deliver a eulogy at the service, is joined by First Lady Michelle (right)
Cheers: When America's first couple flashed up on screen the crowd roared their approval of the U.S.'s first black President
Tough conditions: Mr Obama was delayed because his motorcade struggled through the rain-soaked route to the World Cup stadium
Two very different receptions: Mr Obama, who was greeted with prolonged applause, embraces South African president Jacob Zuma, who was loudly booed
Embarrassing: South African Jacob Zuma was roundly booed by the crowd when he got up to deliver his tribute to Mr Mandela
He also spoke out against the dictators from countries such as Zimbabwe and China who pay lip service to Mandela's legacy while repressing their own people, saying: 'There are too many of us who happily embrace Madiba's legacy of racial reconciliation, but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality.
'There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba's struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people. And there are too many of us who stand on the sidelines, comfortable in complacency or cynicism when our voices must be heard.'
Mr Obama concluded: 'We will never see the likes of Nelson Mandela again. But let me say to the young people of Africa, and young people around the world - you can make his life's work your own.'
On his way to the podium, the President shook hands with Raul Castro, whose brother Fidel has long been one of the fiercest enemies of the U.S. - testament to Mandela's ability to bring warring parties together in his memory.
The two countries have not had diplomatic relations since the Communist revolution of 1959, and their leaders are not believed to have communicated with each other in recent years.
Relatives: Mr Mandela's ex-wife Winnie Mandela Madikizela (left) and his widow Graca Machel (far right) take their seats in the stadium
Emotional: Winnie Madikizela-Mandela (left) and Graca Machel (right) fight back tears as moving tributes to Mr Mandela are read out
Close: The two women refer to each other as 'sisters' even though they were both married to the same man
Mourning: Mr Mandela's former wife Winnie Mandela Madikizela (centre), who famously greeted her husband as he left prison, arrives at the ceremony
Family affair: (front row) Mr Mandela's daughters Zindzi, Zenani and Makaziwe Mandela, ex-wife Winnie Mandela Madikizela and widow Graca Machel before the service
Respect: Nelson Mandela is shown on a giant screen inside the stadium as thousands of South Africans and global dignitaries file into the ground
A man waves a South African flag: South Africans have been praised for the 'dignified' way in which they have commemorated Mr Mandela's death
Umbrella weather: The ceremony started an hour late in the pouring rain to allow dignitaries and members of the public to file in to the arena
Among the other international dignitaries to attend the event are several current and former British leaders, including David Cameron, Nick Clegg, Gordon Brown, Tony Blair and John Major.
The memorial featured tributes by some of the anti-Apartheid icon's family and a speech from United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
Mr Ban told the service: ‘South Africa has lost a hero, we have lost a father and the world has lost a beloved friend and mentor.
‘Nelson Mandela was more than one of the greatest leaders of our time, he was one of our greatest teachers. He taught by example, he sacrificed so much and was willing to give up everything for freedom, equality and justice.
‘His compassion stands out most.’
Representatives: David Cameron and Nick Clegg were attending the ceremony along with three former Prime Ministers of Britain
Arrival: Mr Cameron, Mr Clegg and John Major walking in to the FNB Stadium this morning
Rivals: But George W. Bush, pictured with wife Laura, apparently got on well with his successor Bill Clinton, pictured with wife Hillary and Chelsea
Dignitaries: Sir John Major and Tony Blair were two of the former Prime Ministers of the UK to attend in honour of Mandela
Support: Gordon Brown, who paid tribute to Mandela in the Commons yesterday, with his wife Sarah and George W. Bush
The event at the 95,000-capacity FNB Stadium in Soweto began with a rendition of South Africa's national anthem - the only music in the order of service.
Mr Ramaphosa told the crowd during his opening address: 'We wish to applaud the people of South Africa for the dignified manner in which they have honoured and remembered the memory of Nelson Mandela since he passed away. We applaud you and thank you for it.'
After interfaith prayers, the service then heard from Andrew Mlangeni, a former prisoner on Robben Island with Mr Mandela, who spoke of the 'outpouring of love' following his death.
'Madiba is looking down on us. There is no doubt he is smiling and he watches his beloved country, men and women, unite to celebrate his life and legacy,' he said.
Who's who of world leaders: VIPs and dignitaries watch from the tribune as rain lashes down during the memorial service
Paying tribute: World leaders converged on the FNB Stadium in Soweto, the Johannesburg township that was a stronghold of support for the anti-apartheid struggle that Mandela embodied
Empty seats: The 94,000-capacity stadium was reportedly only two-thirds full which may have due to the adverse weather conditions
Successor: Jacob Zuma, the current president of South Africa, is giving the keynote speech during the ceremony
Ally: FW de Klerk, who was awarded the Nobel Prize along with Mandela for his role in ending apartheid, arrives with his wife Elita
'He has done it again... people from all walks of life, all here, united': UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon pays tribute to Mr Mandela
Colourful: A woman dressed in the regalia of the South African national rugby team arriving at the stadium
'THANK YOU FOR SHARING MADIBA': HIGHLIGHTS OF OBAMA'S HEARTFELT EULOGY FOR NELSON MANDELA
Tributes were also made by General Thanduxolo Mandela, and 'Madiba's' grandchildren Mbuso Mandela, Andile Mandela, Zozuko Dlamini and Phumla Mandela.
Chinese vice-president Li Yuanchao, Brazilian president Dilma Roussef, Namibian president Hifikepunye Pohamba and Indian president Pranab Mukherjee also made speeches before a keynote address by South Africa's president Jacob Zuma and a sermon by Bishop Ivan Abrahams.
Speaking through a translator, Mr Castro said: 'Let us pay tribute to Nelson Mandela: The ultimate symbol of dignity and unwavering dedication to the revolutionary struggle, to freedom and justice, a prophet of unity, peace and reconciliation.
'As Mandela's life teaches us, only the concerted effort of all nations will empower humanity to respond to the enormous challenges that today threatens its very existence.'
In her address, Ms Rousseff said: 'He also was a source of inspiration for similar struggles in Brazil and across South America.
'His fight reached way beyond his nation's border and inspired young men and women to fight for independence and social justice.'
Mr Li told how Mr Mandela was the 'pride of the African people', adding: 'He has dedicated his entire life to the development and progress of the African continent.'
Crowds started pouring in from early in the morning, undeterred by persistent rain, and in the build-up to the ceremony mourners screamed in celebration whenever members of Mandela's family appeared on the big screen.
The rain, seen as a 'blessing' among South Africa's majority black population, enthused the crowd.
'In our culture the rain is a blessing,' said Harry Tshabalala, a government driver. 'Only great, great people are memorialised with it. Rain is life. This is perfect weather for us on this occasion.'
However, some of the dozens of trains laid on to ferry people to the stadium were delayed due to a power failure. A Metrorail spokeswoman said more than 30,000 mourners were successfully transported by train.
When Mr Ramaphosa introduced the assembled dignitaries at the start of the service, nearly all were welcomed by cheers - except current president Jacob Zuma, whose name was met by loud booing.
Those attended seemed to be in celebratory spirits, but the rain meant that most of the uncovered lower section of the stadium was left empty.
Among the mourners pictured arriving at the ceremony were former UN secretary general Kofi Annan, ex-U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Desmond Tutu, the Archbishop of Cape Town who was Mandela's ally in bringing apartheid to an end.
However, Israel's president Benjamin Netanyahu decided not to attend, because the cost of providing security for him would be too great.
A number of African presidents - including the reviled Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe - arrived in South Africa overnight.
Wet, but well received: President Barrack Obama greets members of the crowd in the pouring rain after making his speech
Homage: Obama paid an emotional tribute to Nelson Mandela, thanking the people of South Africa for 'sharing' their former president with the world
Close ties: Supermodel Naomi Campbell, who Mr Mandela described as his 'honorary granddaughter', enters the FNB stadium ahead of the service
Welcoming committee: President Obama and Michelle (who is covered by an umbrella) are greeted Tuesday morning on the tarmac in Johannesburg by International Relations Minister Maite Nkoane-Mashabane (center)
Former President George W. Bush and his wife Laura are seen coming off of Air Force One after the Obamas as the two couples shared the plane with former Secretary of State and first lady Hillary Clinton
Lines of succession: Obama led the Americans, followed by Michelle, then former President George Bush, Laura Bush, and Hillary Clinton seen just slightly at the end
David Cameron paid tribute to the spirit of forgiveness shown by the anti-apartheid hero as he arrived for the service.
The British prime minister said Mr Mandela set an example to politicians across the world, not only in the 'incredible stand he took' but in the way he treated people once he was released from prison.
He highlighted the moment Mr Mandela appeared with captain of the Springboks Francois Pienaar at the Rugby World Cup final in South Africa in 1995.
Mr Cameron told BBC Breakfast: 'I will never forget the sight of him with the captain of the Springboks out in the middle of that rugby pitch, that moment is seared in all our memories.
'And the way that he had treated people who had done such harm to people.
'I think it was the forgiveness that set an example that so few politicians are able to follow. I think those sort of lessons are what we need to learn and take away with us.'
Celebration: A mourner wearing a wig in the South African national colours arrives at the stadium
Dance: Many of those inside the stadium were dancing to celebrate the life of the former leader
Tribute: Many of those attending the memorial were decked out in national flags and wearing celebratory clothing
Stars: U2 singer Bono and South African actress Charlize Theron talking in the crowd at the ceremony
Associates: Jimmy Carter, Kofi Annan and Henry Kissinger arrived at the memorial service together
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and leader of the Opposition Ed Miliband are also set to attend the memorial service.
Asked about his decision to wear a black tie, Mr Cameron said: 'We were told that it was appropriate to wear a black tie but when you come and you hear this great noise and great atmosphere of celebration, it's clear that people here in South Africa want to, yes, say goodbye to this great man, yes, commemorate what he did, but also celebrate his life and celebrate his legacy and I think that's right.'
The presence of Sir John Major, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown with Mr Cameron reflects the deep respect in which Mr Mandela is held within British politics.
The Prime Minister and Mr Brown were among MPs who paid tribute to Mr Mandela in a special Commons session yesterday following the Nobel peace prize-winner's death.
Mr Brown added his tribute to 'the man that taught us no injustice can last forever'.
He said: 'Nelson Mandela, the greatest man of his generation, yes, but across generations, one of the most courageous people you could ever hope to meet.'
Jovial: Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan (left) and retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu appear in good spirits as they arrive for the service
Embraced: Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair (left) is greeted after arriving for the memorial service in Johannesburg
Sense of humour: Former President of Ireland Mary Robinson (left) chats with Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu arrive inside the FNB stadium
Successor: Former South African President Thabo Mbeki (left) is welcomed as he arrives at the FNB Stadium before heading inside the venue with his wife Zanele (right)
Audience: Italian prime minister Enrico Letta (above left), French ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy (below left) and his successor Francois Hollande (below right)
Key role: Cuban President Raul Castro Ruz arrives for the memorial service where he is due to give a speech
Before today's ceremony, the former Prime Minister added: 'His life was just an extraordinary journey, from beginning to end, with such an effect, both on his own country, and on the rest of the world.
'So, enjoy today, enjoy and celebrate what he achieved. We may not see his like again.'
Meanwhile, ordinary South Africans today paid tribute to the powerful influence Mr Mandela had on their lives.
Matlhogonolo Mothoagae, a postgraduate marketing student who arrived hours before the stadium gates opened, said: 'I would not have the life I have today if it was not for him. He was jailed so we could have our freedom.'
Rohan Laird, the 54-year-old CEO of a health insurance company, said he grew up during white rule in a 'privileged position' as a white South African and that Mandela helped whites work through a burden of guilt.
'His reconciliation allowed whites to be released themselves,' Lair said. 'I honestly don't think the world will see another leader like Nelson Mandela.'
People blew on vuvuzelas, the plastic horn that was widely used during the World Cup soccer tournament in 2010, and sang songs from the era of the anti-apartheid struggle decades ago.
'It is a moment of sadness celebrated by song and dance, which is what we South Africans do,' said Xolisa Madywabe, CEO of a South African investment firm.
Passion: The huge number of mourners at the ceremony is testimony to the impact Mandela made on his country
Carnival atmosphere: Even before the start of the service thousands had gathered to celebrate the life of the former president
Drizzle: But mourners were not deterred by the rain in Johannesburg as they arrived at the stadium
Father of the country: Many, like this little boy, refer to the former president using his tribal name, Madiba
Banner: Supporters carrying a large sign which paid tribute to Mandela's lasting legacy in South Africa and the rest of the world
ICONIC STADIUM WHERE MANDELA MADE LANDMARK SPEECH IN 1990
The 95,000-capacity soccer venue was also the spot where Mandela made his last public appearance at the closing ceremony of the World Cup. After the memorial, his body will lie in state for three days at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, once the seat of white power, before burial on Sunday in his rural childhood village of Qunu in Eastern Cape Province.
Police promised tight security, locking down roads for miles around the stadium. However, the first crowds entered the stadium without being searched.
John Allen, a 48-year-old pastor from the U.S. state of Arkansas, said he once met Mandela at a shopping center in South Africa with his sons.
'He joked with my youngest and asked if he had voted for Bill Clinton,' Allen said. 'He just zeroed in on my eight-year-old for the three to five minutes we talked.'
There have been numerous comparisons between Mr Obama and Mr Mandela and a certain number of them are inevitable - as they were both the first black presidents of their respective countries and living symbols of struggles to overcome deep-seated racial tensions.
Adding to that, both were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
But as Obama prepares to honor Mandela , people close to the U.S. president say he is wary of drawing close comparisons between his own rapid rise through America's political ranks and Mandela's 27 years in prison fighting against a repressive government.
Queues: Members of the public clutching umbrellas to protect against the rain file in to the stadium in Soweto
Getting ready: Crowds have been piling up around the First National Bank stadium where Mandela's memorial service will be held on Tuesday
Filling the seats: The stadium, dubbed 'Soccer City', holds 90,000 but there have been overflow areas planned in advance
Paternal: Mandela was often known at 'Tata', or 'Father', by South Africans grateful for his legacy
Festive: Men singing in the queue for the ceremony at South Africa's largest football stadium
Rather than view himself as a counterpart to Mandela, Obama has said he sees himself as one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from Mandela's life.
'Like so many around the globe, I cannot fully imagine my own life without the example that Nelson Mandela set, and so long as I live, I will do what I can to learn from him,' Obama said after Mandela died last week at the age of 95.
In the days following Mandela's death, Obama began crafting the 20-minute speech he will deliver during Tuesday's service in Johannesburg, where tens of thousands of South Africans and dozens of foreign dignitaries are expected to pack a sports stadium.
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.
Air Force One touched down at a military base near Johannesburg on Tuesday morning.
Ready to celebrate: It has been five days since the 95-year-old former President died
Prepared: People filled the stadium on Tuesday hours before the dignitaries arrived
Former President George H.W. Bush, the only other living U.S. president, will not attend because the 89-year-old is no longer able to travel long distances, his spokesman Jim McGrath said.
Also traveling with Obama were national security adviser Susan Rice and Attorney General Eric Holder.
For Obama, who was too young to be active in the American civil rights movement, it was Mandela's struggle against apartheid that first drew him into politics.
He studied Mandela's speeches and writings while studying at Occidental College from 1979-81 and became active in campus protests against the apartheid government.
'My very first political action, the first thing I ever did that involved an issue or a policy or politics, was a protest against apartheid,' Obama said last week.
Inspiration: 14-year-old Thomas looks out across the arena as the crowds start to file in for the memorial service
Programme: The events were scheduled to include talks by world leaders as well as tributes from Mandela's family
Homestead: A woman in Mandela's village of Qunu stokes a fire as his memorial service plays on TV behind her
'The day that (Mandela) was released from prison gave me a sense of what human beings can do when they're guided by their hopes and not by their fears.'
By the time Obama became president, Mandela had retired from public life. But they did have one in-person meeting, a hastily arranged 2005 encounter while Mandela was visiting Washington.
The South African leader had been encouraged to meet a young black U.S. senator who was a rising star in American politics and invited Obama to visit him at his hotel.
A single photo from the meeting shows the two men smiling and shaking hands, with Obama standing and Mandela sitting, his legs stretched out in front of him.
The photo hangs in Obama's personal office at the White House, as well as in Mandela's office in Johannesburg.
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace Mugabe (centre) arrive in Pretoria ahead of the memorial
Equatorial Guinea's president Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo (left) and Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta (right) also arrived in South Africa on Monday night
Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain (centre) is also on the guestlist for the prestigious memorial
Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni (left) and Malawi's President Joyce Banda (right) arrive at Waterkloof Air Force Base in Pretoria
Not attending: Russia's president Vladimir Putin today signed a book of condolence for Mandela's death at the South African embassy in Moscow
Obama and Mandela had sporadic contact after that meeting, including a congratulatory phone call from Mandela after Obama's 2008 election and a condolences call from the U.S. president after the South African's granddaughter was killed in a 2010 car accident.
In 2011, Mrs Obama and her two daughters held a private meeting with Mandela during a visit to South Africa but the elderly leader was hospitalized and too sick to meet with Obama when he traveled there earlier this year.
Mandela's ailing health cast a shadow over that trip, heightening the emotion when Obama and his family visited the Robben Island prison where Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in prison.
Obama also met with members of Mandela's family during his July visit and the White House said he hopes to spend time with them again on Tuesday.