Mandela's body arrives for viewing in South Africa

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Mandela's body arrives for viewing in South Africa
A boy with "Rest In Peace Nelson Mandela" painted on his face looks up to the skies 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/Peter Dejong)
Mugs with pictures of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and late South African leader Nelson Mandela are displayed among others at a souvenir shop in Gaza City, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013. World leaders, celebrities, and citizens from all walks of life gathered on Tuesday to pay respects during a memorial service for the former South African president and anti-apartheid icon. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
South African President Jacob Zuma, right, hugs Retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu during the memorial service for former South African president Nelson Mandela at the FNB Stadium in Soweto near Johannesburg, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Two women kiss the flag bearing the portrait of Nelson Mandela at his memorial service at the FNB stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013. Mandela died Thursday at his Johannesburg home after a long illness. He was 95(AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)
An image of President Barack Obama is flashed on a screen as he makes his speech 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/Peter Dejong)
Two girls dance in the rain outside of the 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)
People run in the heavy rain inside the arena 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/Themba Hadebe)
A sea of umbrellas in the arena 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/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)
Women with tattoos of former South African president Nelson Mandela on their faces smile as they arrive for his memorial service at the FNB Stadium in the Johannesburg, South Africa township of Soweto, Tuesday Dec. 10, 2013. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
Actress Charlize Theron speaks with musician Bono before the memorial service for former South African president Nelson Mandela at the FNB Stadium in Soweto near Johannesburg, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
The face of Nelson Mandela is shown on a large billboard in the stands at the memorial service for former South African President Nelson Mandela at the FNB Stadium in the Johannesburg, South Africa township of Soweto, Tuesday Dec. 10, 2013. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Two men sing as they arrive for 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)
A man covers himself from the rain as he arrives for 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/Themba Hadebe)
French President Francois Hollande, centre right, speaks with former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, centre left, attend the memorial service for former South African president Nelson Mandela at the FNB Stadium in Soweto, near Johannesburg, South Africa, Tuesday Dec. 10, 2013. At top right is Italian Premier Enrico Letta. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
Nelson Mandela's widow Graca Machel, center, arrives for 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)
Japan's Crown Prince Naruhito, center, takes his seat for 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/Peter Dejong)
A general view of the arena 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/Bernat Armangue)
Ndzondzo Mabope, right, sits with family members as they watch a local television station broadcasting live images from former president Nelson Mandela memorial held in Johannesburg , from Qunu, South Africa, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013. Joyous, singing South Africans gathered in the rain Tuesday to honor Nelson Mandela at a massive memorial service that is expected to draw some 100 heads of state and other luminaries, united in tribute to a global symbol of reconciliation. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam)
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PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) -- A flag-draped casket containing the body of Nelson Mandela arrived with a military honor guard Wednesday for display in an amphitheater where he was sworn in 19 years ago as South Africa's first black president.
Army helicopters had been circling overhead but then a sudden quiet fell over the amphitheater as the hearse arrived. Eight warrant officers representing the various services and divisions of the South African National Defense Force carried the casket, led by a military chaplain in a purple stole. The officers set down the coffin and removed the flag.
Motorcycle-riding police officers had escorted the hearse from a military hospital outside of Pretoria to the Union Buildings.
"I just hope I won't cry," said Paul Letageng, 47, an employee there. "It's amazing to think that 19 years ago he was inaugurated there, and now he's lying there. If he was not here we would not have had peace in South Africa."

Mandela emerged from 27 years in prison under the white racist government in 1990, appealed for forgiveness and reconciliation and became president in 1994 after the country's first all-race democratic elections.

People lined the streets to watch the procession drive slowly to the Union Buildings. They sang old songs from the struggle against the apartheid regime and called out their farewells to Mandela, who died Dec. 5 at the age of 95. Traffic was backed up for several kilometers (miles) on a highway leading into Pretoria.

President Jacob Zuma named the amphitheater after Mandela by decree Tuesday. The Union Buildings, described by the South African government as a "modern-day acropolis," sit atop a hill overlooking Pretoria. The architect who designed it envisioned its two wings, made of half a million cubic feet (14,100 cubic meters) of stone, representing the Afrikaans and English languages spoken in the country - but none of the land's native languages.

Even from its inception, the building long has been considered a symbol of governance in the country - and of apartheid until Mandela took office.

Mandela's grandson Mandla and Defense Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula led mourners into the viewing area. After casket bearers left, four junior officers in white uniform from the South African navy remained to keep watch over the body, rotating position every hour.

Mandela's body will lie in state for three days. It has a glass cover allowing mourners to look in on Mandela one last time. Officials have banned cameras from the viewing area and people are being asked to turn off their mobile phones.

Mandela family members, his wife Graca Machel, his former wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Zuma all attended the viewing Wednesday. Other world leaders were expected to pass by his coffin.

Each day, Mandela's coffin will be driven back to 1 Military Hospital to be held overnight. Authorities have asked the public to line the street as an honor guard for each trip.

Mandela's body will be flown Saturday to Qunu, his home in the Eastern Cape Province. He will be buried Sunday.

On Tuesday, world leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama eulogized Mandela. In his speech, Obama called Mandela "the last great liberator of the 20th century."

"We will never see the likes of Nelson Mandela again," Obama said. "But let me say to the young people of Africa, and young people around the world - you can make his life's work your own."

Gambrell reported from Johannesburg.

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