Johannesburg (CNN) — Presidents and prime ministers, celebrities and royals joined tens of thousands of South Africans to pay tribute to Nelson Mandela Tuesday, in a memorial service celebrating a man seen as a global symbol of reconciliation.
In what has been billed as one of the largest gatherings of global leaders in recent history, world leaders from President Barack Obama to France’s Francois Hollande gathered alongside street sweepers, actors and religious figures to pay tribute to the revered statesman who died last Thursday.
Despite the rain, the atmosphere inside Johannesburg ‘s FNB stadium was celebratory, with people dancing, blowing “vuvuzela” plastic horns and singing songs from the anti-apartheid struggle.
Many carried banners honoring “Madiba,” Mandela’s traditional clan name, or his picture.
Some had skipped work and queued for hours to secure a seat so that they could pay their respects.
The four-hour service started an hour late as guests continued to stream into the stadium, where Mandela delivered his first major speech after his release from prison. It began with the national anthem