South African authorities are facing an unprecedented logistical challenge of hosting up to 100 world leaders flying in from every corner of the globe for the state funeral of freedom icon Nelson Mandela.
The world is literally coming to South Africa, as arrival of 91 counties’ leaders has already been confirmed, including President Goodluck Jonathan, US President Barack Obama, and many more.
Some of the global leaders may join the 80,000 people expected to cram into the FNB stadium in Soweto to take part in a grand memorial service for their inspirational first black president on December 10, 2013, Tuesday.
South African President Jacob Zuma will make the keynote address, and other speakers will include UN Secretary Ban Ki-Moon and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.
Four of Mandela’s adored grandchildren will speak for his family, while neither his widow, Graca Machel, nor his ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela are listed on the programme.
Talk show queen Oprah Winfrey and singer-activist Bono, as well as British billionaire Richard Branson and musician Peter Gabriel were expected to be among the celebrity mourners.
The memorial service, in the venue where Mandela made his last major public appearance for the 2010 World Cup final, is seen as a final chance for grieving South Africans to unite in a mass celebration of his life ahead of the more formal state funeral.
Some 120,000 people will be able to watch the event on giant screens set up in three overflow stadiums in Johannesburg.
Ahead of the burial, Mandela’s body will lie in state for three days from Wednesday in the amphitheatre of the Union Buildings in Pretoria where he was sworn in as president in 1994.
Each morning, his coffin will be borne through the streets of the capital in a funeral cortege, to give as many people as possible the chance to pay their final respects.
Around 11,000 troops have been mobilised to ensure security and help with crowd control.