Dignitaries arriving at FNB stadium
The event is expected to be one of the biggest gatherings of world leaders in history.
JOHANNESBURG - A stream of dignitaries have started arriving at the FNB Stadium in Soweto ahead of Nelson Mandela's memorial service.
The event is expected to be one of the biggest gatherings of world leaders in history with nearly 100 presidents, kings, dukes, sheiks and celebrities expected to attend
Mandela's widow, Graca Machel, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and former presidents Thabo Mbeki and FW de Klerk have been spotted.
Tutu was seen walking next to former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan who was at this stadium recently for a youth summit.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has also entered the stadium, along with three former prime ministers.
VIP guests and visiting presidents are expecting to continue filing into the stadium - as the start of the memorial service draws closer.
South African actress Charlize Theron and Irish rock star Bono have also arrived.
Former Springbok Captain Francois Pienaar and current captain Jean de Villers have also been spotted.
Former Springbok Captain Francois Pienaar. Picture: EWN
US President Barack Obama's motorcade also arrived a short while ago. US President Barack Obama's car. Picture: Alex Caige
US President Barack Obama's car. Picture: Alex Caige
While the stands at the calabash are slowly filling up there appears to be major logistical problems with many still stuck outside the stadium and others struggling to get to the stadium.
Metrorail says it is battling to get people to the stadium.
The company's Lilian Mofokeng says the delay is at Nasrec station.
"The masses and rain have caused the trains to take longer than anticipated."
- Nickolaus Bauer (@NICKolausBAUER) December 10, 2013
Executive Director of Transport in the City of Johannesburg, Lisa Seftel says park and rides and buses are busy transporting people.
"Park and ride at Gold Reef City is full however, there is still capacity at the park and ride at Standard Bank in Simmonds Street and the Westgate Rea Vaya station at the bottom of Anderson Street as well as at the University of Johannesburg's Kingsway campus."
Former Congress of South African Trade Unions general secretary Jay Naidoo says there is still a lot of space in the stadium for people to come and be a part of this momentous occasion.
"The message has to go out that there's a lot of room and we should all be encouraging our people to come here to close the chapter on the life of an extraordinary leader, the hero of our people."
Many people say the rain is associated with good luck and means the memorial has been blessed.
It has been pouring since early this morning but it hasn't dampened the spirits of the thousands of mourners attending the service.
In the stands, there are people from all walks of life, dozens are waving South African flags but Zimbabwean, Cuban and American flags have also been spotted.
Picture: @mabine_seabe via Twitter
Many of the buses have arrived and more people are filing into the stadium.
Pienaar, who is at the event with his wife and two sons, says today is going to be difficult to say goodbye to an icon like Madiba, who he was lucky enough to spend time with.
He says while the nation is celebrating his life, it will also be emotional because Madiba set an example of what a leader should be like.
Madiba proudly wore the Springbok jersey in front of the world, a year after being elected the first black president, uniting the nation through sport.
The atmosphere outside the stadium is electric as scores of mourners continue to dance energetically, sing, whistle and ululate.
Many people have been queuing since the early hours of this morning and some even slept at the stadium to ensure their place inside was secured.
Mandela's last public appearance was on 11 July 2010 at the closing ceremony of the 2010 Soccer World Cup, which was held at FNB Stadium.
Therefore, in a way it's fitting that the country and the rest of the world will bid farewell to Mandela at the stadium today.
There are three platforms on the pitch.
The one in the middle has bulletproof glass behind it and is where the world leaders and VIP guests are likely to be positioned.
The FNB stadium is filling up as mourners stream in. Picture: EWN.
Groups of security guards wearing bright reflector jackets have also taken up their positions across the stands.
For days, security officials and intelligence agents have been sweeping the stadium, preparing for the arrival of close to 100 heads of state.
Unlike normal events, people won't need tickets and the police and private security companies will have to keep a count of the number of people entering.
SEVEN YEAR PLAN
Stadium Manager Jacques Grobbelaar, who has been involved in the 1995 Rugby World Cup and 2010 Soccer World Cup, says this is a completely unique moment for South Africa.
He says he can still feel the 'Madiba magic' when looking out onto the stands.
Grobbelaar says South Africa's security agency has been planning this event for more than seven years while they have had insight into the plans for over eight months.
He says the biggest challenge will be to control the crowd but even that has been carefully orchestrated.
"We have enough advanced warning to cut off the flow of spectators. We also have overflow areas outside the stadium."
He says he believes today will run without any problems.
"I have 100 percent faith in South Africans and the great citizens of Johannesburg that this is going to go down extremely well. I think we will remember this day as one of the highlights- it's surely the biggest event this country has ever seen."
This is the 35th event to be held at the stadium this year and since 2010, over five and a half million people have been through the turnstiles.
Crowds at FNB Stadium wave flags and sing for Madiba. Picture: EWN.