Nelson Mandela Memorial – White House Press Pool Reports

south-africa-mandela-memorial

This from the White House Press Pool:

Obama’s speech was initially not displayed on the jumbo video monitors even though others earlier, such as Ban Ki Moon’s, were.

Instead, a graphic was shown featuring a photo of Mandela.

south-africa-mandela-memorialAbout 5 minutes into Obama’s remarks, the video feed came up, producing a big cheer.
Obama also got a loud cheer when he repeated the Mandela quote the president offered‎ during his remarks on Mandela at the White House last week. It’s the one about fighting white domination and black domination.

Acoustics also very difficult in the stadium, with some of Obama’s speech especially early on.
Local press accounts say Bush was booed when he was shown on the video monitor, as was current South African President Zuma.

Rained hard throughout much of Obama’s speech but near very‎ end sky brightened.
Another big roar from the crowd when Obama finished his roughly 15 minute speech. In addition to shouting and applause, the sound of the horn made famous during the world Cup, the Vuvuzela, filled the stadium.

As Obama walked away from the stage after his speech, people rushed through the stands to see him. It appeared he stopped for a few moments to shake hands with the crowd, though again it was hard to see due to our angle and a bevy of umbrellas.

We expect Obama to return to his seat in the VIP section for the remainder of the program.
While pool had been led to believe there would not be consecutive translation of non-English speakers, that has proven to be incorrect. So program slowing down now as Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff speaks in Portuguese which is then translated to English. And the video feed is down again.

Josh Gerstein
POLITICO

White House Pool Report No. 6 – Stadium color

POTUS and FLOTUS have made their way to seats in the VIP section, which is covered from the elements. It’s also a couple of tiers up in the stadium, a long way from the stage where people are speaking and Mandela family is seated.

When POTUS and FLOTUS appeared on video screens in the stadium‎ for the first time, a deafening roar went up and continued for almost 30 seconds. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon got a similar, though less sustained cheer as he began speaking.

Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton and Chelsea Clinton currently making their way through vip section gladhanding. They appear to have seats in front row of that section.

Bush 43 also gladhanding in same section. I think I glimpsed a Bush-Blair handshake.

At one point Bill Clinton and Bush wound up side by side and gave a wave to the crowd, greatly exciting the phalanx of photographers tracking them.

Pool’s view of Obama’s is poor due to an extreme angle. We are far below and ‎they loom above. As a result, I cannot catalog the handshakes.

I would say the stadium is about half full, with the uncovered seats more empty and the covered highest tier packed.‎ The field is also vacant.

Josh Gerstein
POLITICO

White House Pool Report No. 5 – FNB Stadium arrival

POTUS arrived at stadium at 12:47 PM local time, presumably accompanied by FLOTUS, Bush 43, Laura and Hillary Clinton though this pooler did not see them on this leg. About 45 mins travel time from hotel.

Scenes along highways POTUS motorcade traveled down to stadium:

Overhead, amber-alert type sign: “REST IN PEACE MAD’BA‎.”

‎Also an electronic billboard saying: “The sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement.” – Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela

Passed a crashed car and truck which appeared to have spun out on the rain slicked highway and struck a light pole. Didn’t look too bad.

Further on on another road a car into a ditch.

As we approached stadium some roads had cars randomly parked along them, though no cars in immediate vicinity of stadium.

Josh Gerstein
POLITICO

White House Pool Report No. 4 – Hotel to FNB Stadium
December 10, 2013

With the FNB stadium looking less than half full on TV at the designated 11 AM start time for the Mandela memorial service, POTUS delayed his departure for the event.

Pool moved to the motorcade about 10:45 AM. We heard via radio at about 11:30 AM that participants were taking the stage at the stadium. At 11:45 AM we were still holding awaiting departure for the stadium.

POTUS finally underway just after noon, following playing of S African national anthem to kick off service.

Rain varying between steady and heavy. Five South African flags at half staff flapped outside Obama’s hotel in wind so hard the flagpoles were swaying.

A few dozen onlookers braved the rain to snap mobile phone shots of motorcade in the streets near the hotel.

Sending this as we approach stadium since mobile service there may be congested.

Josh Gerstein
POLITICO

White House Pool Report No. 3 – Obama Arrives Johannesburg area Hotel

December 10, 2013

Obama arrived at about 825AM local at a hotel in the Johannesburg suburbs, Radisson Blu Sandton. About an hour en route from the air base, perhaps double the time it would have taken without traffic.’

Did not see POTUS on arrival. No sign of any activity before the memorial service. Still raining.

Did not see anything Mandela-related during the drive, though perhaps some of the traffic was headed to the memorial service.

Route took us past some of the big name factories/distribution centers that make South Africa the manufacturing/industrial power on the continent. Saw names like L’Oreal and Bosch.

Little humanity outside of cars observed en route, except for some pedestrians as we neared the hotel. At one point on the highway, we saw what looked like acrobats promoting a mall or store of some sort standing in the rain with oversized illuminated hula hoops and other gear. Certainly festive, but didn’t seem Mandela related.

Saw one group of women in a car grinning and laughing as they recorded motorcade with smartphones.

On a couple of occasions, vehicular interlopers joined the motorcade and had to be escorted out.

As we approached the hotel, one such interloper was pulled aside by a local police officer and colorfully dressed down.

“You don’t do that! You’ll be killed!” the officer shouted.

Update: WH says last name of the general who greeted Obama is indeed “More.”

Josh Gerstein
POLITICO

White House Pool Report No. 2 – Johannesburg area AF1 arrival/motorcade

December 10, 2013

A steady rain falling at the Waterkloof Air Force Base and predicted through the day, meaning the 80,000 guests, pool and dignitaries expected at the Mandela memorial could be in for a soaking unless they have full-time umbrella holders or weather-protected seats.

At about 715 AM local, the Obama, Bushes and Hillary Clinton emerged from Air Force One. Current FLOTUS out the door first, wearing a black dress cut at the knee with a white panel decorated in an orange print. She held the umbrella for current POTUS as they came down the stairs. Next were the Bushes, with 43 holding an umbrella for Laura. Followed by Hillary Clinton, holding her own umbrella. Her attire obscured by dark coat.

Lead greeters were US Ambassador to South Africa Patrick Gaspard and his wife, Raina Washington. Additional greeters per WH: Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane – Minister of International Relations & Cooperation, Brigadier General ID as “More” (in military uniform) by WH but may be Brig. Gen Portia Mare of the S.A. Defense Forces, NL Dikweni Director of Economic Affairs and Francis Moloi – High Commissioner.

An Air India 747 was parked nearby to AF1. People emerged from the Air India plane and stood on the air stairs watching as the U.S. motorcade departed. Several other large aircraft on the flightline.

Another well-known face spotted on AF1 as we got ready to disembark: Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin.

We’re now on a motorcade movement into Johannesburg, mostly via interstate. Expecting to hold pending the memorial service at 11 A.M.

Not much humanity sighted along the roads, given the rain.

Started for Jo’burg at 726A. Motorcade route not totally cleared. We seem to be making our way through rush hour traffic. And competing with at least one other motorcade. At some point, POTUS et al passing directly alongside cars in slower lanes. Still in traffic at this writing.

Josh Gerstein
POLITICO

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