Workers busily constructed a stage yesterday at the Soweto soccer stadium where world leaders will eulogise Nelson Mandela before tens of thousands of mourners as police promised tight security.
Nearly 100 heads of state are expected to assemble at the 95,000-capacity FNB Stadium for the memorial today to the anti-apartheid icon. Mandela made his last public appearance at the same stadium for the closing ceremony of the 2010 World Cup when the venue was called Soccer City.
"Thousands" of officers will direct traffic, protect mourners and help the bodyguards of visiting dignitaries, Liuetenant General Solomon Makgale, a spokesman for the South African Police Service, said yesterday.
"We will be on hand to make sure people are able to grieve in a safe environment," Makgale told The Associated Press.
Makgale said a joint task force of police, diplomats, and intelligence service personnel already had been making plans and talking to the foreign delegations who plan to attend the ceremony.
Less than 20 hours before the event, ground crews cut the grass in front of the stadium. Workers inside welded scaffolding for a stage and installed bulletproof glass to protect foreign leaders, including United States President Barack Obama.
Others expected to attend are British Prime Minister David Cameron, Brazilian leader Dilma Rousseff, and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Foreign dignitaries began arriving Sunday.
"Whether we have 10 heads of state coming or 70 or 100, we do have the capacity and plans in place to facilitate their movement," Makgale said.
Mandela died Thursday at age 95. His body will lie in state at the Union Buildings, the seat of government in South Africa's capital, Pretoria, from tomorrow to Friday. He will be buried Sunday in Qunu, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate's rural hometown in Eastern Cape Province.