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World honors anti-apartheid hero

中国日报网 2013-12-11 10:10

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Tens of thousands of South Africans united in proud celebration on Tuesday at a rain-soaked and emotional memorial service for global freedom icon Nelson Mandela, attended by presidents and princes and watched by millions around the world.

Close to 100 world leaders were believed to be among the crowd in the World Cup stadium in Soweto - the crucible of Mandela's anti-apartheid struggle -to bid farewell to a man whose life story earned uncommon universal respect.

The event began at midday with a stirring rendition of the national anthem God Bless Africa, led by a mass choir and picked up with enthusiasm by the rest of the stadium.

Despite the profound sense of national sorrow triggered by Mandela's death on Thursday, the mood was upbeat, with people determined to celebrate the memory of one of the 20th century's towering political figures.

"He's God-given, he's God-taken. We will never stop cherishing him," said Shahim Ismail, who took a day off from the sports academy he runs in Johannesburg to attend the event.

Mandela's widow, Graca Machel, received a huge ovation as she took her seat on the main stage constructed at one end of the field.

United States President Barack Obama shook the hand of Cuban President Raul Castro at the memorial, an unprecedented gesture between the leaders of two nations that have been at loggerheads for more than half a century.

The Indian and Brazilian presidents were also selected to deliver eulogies, reflecting Mandela's extraordinary global reach, popularity and influence.

Singer-activist Bono and South African actress Charlize Theron were among the celebrity mourners.

The memorial event was part of an extended state funeral that will culminate in Mandela's burial on Sunday in the rural village of Qunu, where he spent his early childhood.

(中国日报网英语点津 Helen 编辑)

 

About the broadcaster:

Anne Ruisi is an editor at China Daily online with more than 30 years of experience as a newspaper editor and reporter. She has worked at newspapers in the U.S., including The Birmingham News in Alabama and City Newspaper of Rochester, N.Y.

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