Electric atmosphere at FNB Stadium
The event is expected to be one of the biggest gatherings of world leaders in history.
JOHANNESBURG - FNB Stadium is filling up and the atmosphere has been described as electric despite the rain.
Former Springbok Captain Francois Pienaar, current captain Jean de Villers have already been spotted.
Officials from labour movements such as the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) have also been spotted but the majority of people at the stadium are ordinary South Africans who have come to pay homage to the global icon.
Former Cosatu 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."
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.
People have started to fill the orange seats at the FNB Stadium ahead of Nelson Mandela's memorial service today. Picture:EWN.
World leaders have been arriving in South Africa throughout the night.
They've been flying in to OR Tambo International, Lanseria as well as the Waterkloof Air Force Base.
Air Force one touched down a short while ago.
US President Barack Obama is welcomed by International Relations Minister Maite Nkoane-Mashabane at Waterkloof Air Force Base in Pretoria on 10 December 2013. Picture: Barry Bateman/EWN.
"There will be a small stage from where the programme will be directed and President Jacob Zuma and world leaders from Africa and other countries will speak."
ANC treasurer general Zweli Mkhize says logistics are being managed.
"There's a host of logistical issues- the movement of busses, security and bottlenecks, but those who are in here represent the real spirit of this event and are singing and chanting about Mandela."
US President Barack Obama will be the first president to speak.
The keynote address will be delivered by President Zuma who is expected to face perhaps the biggest audience he has ever faced.
Meanwhile, as people continue to stream into the stadium, many more are still queuing outside, hoping they will be allocated one of the 80,000 orange seats.
It has quietened a little outside the stadium as hundreds have already made their way inside but police officers and security guards continue to monitor the gates as more people continue to arrive.
Struggle songs and the sound of women ululating can be heard across the stadium.
People have been queuing since midnight and say they are there to celebrate Mandela's life.
Many are wearing bright coloured clothing including Bafana Bafana t-shirts and t-shirts reading: One Great Man- Nelson Mandela.
Crowds are pointing to banners and posters of Madiba as they dance and sing.
Many umbrellas have been popped open in the stands.
An American woman at the stadium says she is there because Mandela's beliefs impacted the entire world.
"He taught the world how to love, how to forgive and how to embrace in such a human sense which no other leader has done in recent times."
Another woman says the atmosphere is incredible.
"It's a sombre but absolutely beautiful moment, something you can never miss for anything in the world. No rain can stop us from experiencing this moment."
A woman brought her 11-year-old daughter saying she wants her to be part of history.
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.
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.
Leeroy Sidambe, COO of Sidas Security, who will manage all the different private security officials today, earlier briefed guards about how security will be stepped up.
"The challenge that we have is that this is the only official mourning area, meaning that all 50 million South Africans would possibly want to come here. If this stadium fills up, we have to stop people from coming into this stadium. The people at the road closures will assist us."
The memorial is due to start at 11am but organisers say they expect the venue to be packed to capacity from much earlier.
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 turn-styles.