Last minute preparations were underway at Johannesburg’s Soccer City stadium just hours before world leaders were due to join ordinary South Africans in tribute to Nelson Mandela.
The death of the globally-admired statesman last Thursday launched a logistical nightmare for organisers with over 90 current heads of state or government expected.
It is the same stadium where 23 years earlier, Mandela – freshly freed from apartheid jail – was hailed by supporters as the hope for a new South Africa.
His death at the age of 95 has prompted a celebration of his life and many well-wishers have been leaving messages on a large tribute wall near his former home in Soweto.
“This wall is going to grow and grow and grow. Already there is, probably, in the region of one to two thousand messages but thousands more are going to go on her,” said organiser Sam Barratt.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have been two of hundreds of people who have paid their respects at the house in Johannesburg where Mandela died.
A mountain of floral tributes has been steadily growing nearby.
After today’s service a state funeral for Mandela will be held on Sunday.