As it happened: Nelson Mandela memorial service

Key points

  • Nelson Mandela's official memorial service is being held at Soweto's FNB stadium in front of a huge crowd
  • It is one of the biggest gatherings of international dignitaries in recent years, with more than 90 current heads of state or government attending
  • To cheers, US President Barack Obama hailed Mr Mandela as the "last great liberator of the 20th Century", but South African President Jacob Zuma was booed
  • On his way to the stage, Mr Obama shook hands with Cuban President Raul Castro, a rare gesture of friendship between two deeply opposed nations
  • Mr Mandela's body will lie in state in Pretoria from 11-13 December. His state funeral is on Sunday in his Eastern Cape village of Qunu
  • All times in GMT

Live text

Reporting:

  • Zoe Murphy 
  • Andree Massiah 
  • Becky Branford 
  • David Walker 

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Welcome to the BBC's live coverage of the official memorial service in honour of the former South African President, Nelson Mandela.

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Thousands of South Africans are singing and dancing inside the FNB stadium in Soweto under an overcast sky as they await the start of the ceremony.

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Those paying tribute will include four of Mandela's grandchildren, a former fellow inmate of his at Robben Island, the UN secretary general, and chair of the African Union commission. The six presidents due to speak include Barack Obama and Raul Castro of Cuba. Here's a fuller list of world leaders attending

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BBC correspondents are describing the mood as carnival-esque.

A woman celebrates in the tribune before the memorial service for Nelson Mandela

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Andrew Harding, Africa correspondent

tweets: Chanting crowd sprinting gleefully through stadium corridors shouting "Viva ANC!"

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"I'm here to mourn Mandela's passing and to celebrate and honour his legacy," spectator Nthabiseng Seleoane tells the BBC's Nomsa Maseko.

Nthabiseng Seleoane

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James Robbins, Diplomatic correspondent

says the atmosphere in the stadium reflects both the global sense of loss and a distinctly South African way of combining grief with celebration.

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Digital Classroom SA

tweets: Official programme #MadibaMemorial

Mandela memorial programme