Barack Obama has arrived in South Africa to pay tribute to Nelson Mandela, the Nobel Peace Prize winner who died on Thursday at the age of 95.
The US president will deliver a 20-minute speech during the service in Johannesburg, where tens of thousands of South Africans and dozens of foreign dignitaries are expected to pack a sports stadium.
Mr Obama is expected to speak of Mandela’s influence on South Africa and on his own life, while also reflecting on the complexity of Mandela’s rise from anti-apartheid fighter and prisoner to president and global icon.
The US leader, former president George W Bush and their wives arrived at a military base near Johannesburg after a 16-hour trip from Washington.
A light rain fell early today as mourners gathered at FNB Stadium in Soweto, the Johannesburg township that was a stronghold of support for the anti-apartheid struggle that Mandela embodied.
Singing, joyous crowds swelled in the stands despite the rain, while workers still were welding at a VIP area as the first spectators arrived.
About 100 world leaders are expected, including British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Police have promised tight security, and are patrolling a wide perimeter around the stadium. Even so, the first crowds entered the stadium without being searched.