JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Despite a steady rain, the mood at a soccer stadium in Johannesburg today has been one of celebration.
Nearly 100 heads of state and government were among the tens of thousands who gathered to remember Nelson Mandela, who died last week at the age of 95.
President Barack Obama received thunderous applause for a speech in which he urged the world to embrace Mandela's universal message of peace and justice. He said many of those who hail Mandela's achievements are still resisting what Obama calls "modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality."
The rain didn't dampen the spirits of the tens of thousands of South Africans there. Rain is seen as a blessing among South Africa's majority black population. One man said, "This is perfect weather for us on this occasion."
Still, the weather and some public transportation problems may have kept many people away. The 95,000-capacity stadium was only two-thirds full.
In contrast to the wild applause given to Obama, South African President Jacob Zuma was booed. Many South Africans are unhappy with him because of state corruption scandals.
The world leaders who attended the memorial included some from countries like Cuba that don't hold fully democratic elections. On his way to the podium, Obama shook hands with Cuba's Raul Castro, a sign of recent warming relations between the two countries.
156-a-08-(Terry Sebogo (seh-BOH'-goh), Johannesburg resident, in AP interview)-"pain with him"-Terry Sebogo of Johannesburg says President Obama connected with the audience by talking about how he connected with Mandela. (10 Dec 2013)
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153-a-17-(South African President Jacob Zuma, addressing Nelson Mandela memorial service)-"27 years before"-South African President Jacob Zuma says Nelson Mandela's release from prison in 1990 was one of the most remarkable moments in history. ((note length of cut)) (10 Dec 2013)
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142-a-08-(President Barack Obama, delivering remarks at Mandela memorial service)-"behalf of peace"-President Obama says world leaders can't stand on the sidelines for the struggle of justice -- Nelson Mandela didn't. (10 Dec 2013)
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GRAPHICSBANK: Barrack Obama, as US President, speaks to mourners during the memorial service for former South African president Nelson Mandela, FNB Stadium, Soweto, South Africa, graphic element on gray (10 Dec 2013)
APPHOTO TH284: A girl covers her face with a flag bearing the image of Nelson Mandela outside of the memorial service for former South African president Nelson Mandela at the FNB Stadium in Soweto, near Johannesburg, South Africa, Tuesday Dec. 10, 2013. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi) (10 Dec 2013)
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APPHOTO TH271: President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, centre, VIP's and dignitaries watch from the tribune as rain lashes down during the memorial service for former South African president Nelson Mandela at the FNB Stadium in Soweto, near Johannesburg, South Africa, Tuesday Dec. 10, 2013. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber) (10 Dec 2013)
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