Got up early, left home at 4 AM to be in time at the Apartheid Museum for the transfer to the Calabash only to learn that the buses only start at 6, not at 5 AM as indicated in the press. But I was not alone. There was already a good 100 meters queue in the foggy morning. Made easy friends with the comrades in front and behind me, similarly surprised by the change of schedule. Comes 6 AM no buses insight and we start to discuss whether a walk is a considerable option. 8 km to the stadium is not so bad if we had chosen to leave on foot at 5.
Almost everybody is anxious whether we will make to into the stadium, or whether we would diverted to Ellis Park, Orlando Stadium, or Dobsonville. Finally buses arrive, and once inside we get handed a State Memorial Service brochure and the crowd starts singing freedom struggle songs hailing Madiba.
At the Calabash once more queuing – which one is the most promising opening the gate first? It starts to drizzle. Drizzle becomes rain and all of a sudden pushing an running since only some gates open. I later conclude the turmoil may not have been caused by the opening of gates. I realize once we have reached our seats, that I have encountered my first negative experience in this beautiful country – camera is gone.
Rain is getting stronger and we decide to climb to higher level. Wise decision, we will not get wet during the day. Although the stadium is pretty much empty at this stage singing and dancing is in full swing creating a noise level that doesn’t allow any longer for phone calls. If you look around ANC colours, t-shirts, flags all over the place.
Thabo Mbeki is one of the first prominent guests, and I am surprised about the storm of cheering once he is visible on the screen. Very interesting especially since the reaction of the crowd is completely the opposite when the camera catches a glimpse of Jacob Zuma.
The program starts with an hour delay – not surprised, African time! And it will be almost another hour until Obama enters the stadium and almost immediately the podium. I guess this is due to security concerns (or measures) – before he was first time visible on screen you could clearly see a new level of security guys swarming around the podium.
His speech and the reaction of the crowd created goose bumps (I will check whether I can upload what I have recorded with my phone). He clearly hit the right tone, And it should be the only speech during the day with a personal touch, and the crowd thanked it. The other speeches: somewhat boring, only Ban Ki Mun stood out a bit.