Nelson Mandela is no stranger to London. The city loves the South
African statesman and Friday night nearly 50,000 gathered in London's
Hyde Park to celebrate his 90th birthday. From the British capital, Tom
Back in 1988, this reporter remembers this song
being sung at a concert held in Nelson Mandela's honor at the old
Wembley stadium. Back then Nelson Mandela was still a prisoner of the
The tone of that concert was one of
frustration. This concert by contrast was one of celebration. And amid
the various musical acts, Mandela himself took to the stage.
years ago, London hosted an historic concert which called for our
freedom," he recalled. "Your voices carried across the water to
inspire us in our prison cells far away. Tonight, we can stand before
you free. We are honored to be back in London for this wonderful
occasion, celebration. But even as we celebrate let us remind ourselves
that our work is far from complete."
The man who would
eventually be released from prison in 1990 and be elected the first
black president of South Africa four years later was referring to his
campaign these days of preventing the spread of AIDS.
"After nearly 90 years of life, it is time for new hands to lift the burdens. It is in your hands now. I thank you," he said.
birthday is actually not until next month, but the logistics of the
London concert meant that it made more sense to hold it a couple of
weeks early. And to a man who has seen so much in his long life, the
thousands in Hyde Park raised their voices.
The star-studded event featured the likes of Amy Winehouse, Eddy Grant and Johnny Clegg.
Organizers vow that the work of Mandela's AIDS charity will go on.