July 18, 2008

City Joins Global Celebrations for Mandela’s 90th Birthday

By Alan Roden City

THE South African flag was flying from the City Chambers today as a series of events to celebrate Nelson Mandela's 90th birthday got under way across the Capital.

A special flowerbed showing the South African flag with the logo for Mr Mandela's Aids charity 46664 - his old prison number - has been planted in east Princes Street Gardens to mark the occasion.

And at the Boyzone concert at Edinburgh Castle tonight, fans of the Irish pop stars may be asked to join them in a rendition of "happy birthday".

Other celebrations are taking place around the world today in honour of the man who led the struggle against apartheid, spent 27 years in prison and then became the first black president of South Africa.

Mr Mandela was due to celebrate his birthday in his home country, where a coin and stamp have been launched and 46664 wrist bangles were being snapped up.

In Britain, Prime Minister Gordon Brown has led the greetings, describing the Nobel Peace Prize winner on the website happybirthdaymandela.com as "a leader no prison cell, no intimidation, no threat could silence".

Mr Mandela visited Edinburgh in 1997 when he was awarded the Freedom of the City.

A room at the City Chambers is also named after him.

Deputy council leader Steve Cardownie said today: "The word inspirational is often bandied about, but Nelson Mandela truly encapsulates the term.

"The worldwide celebration of Mr Mandela's 90th birthday shows just what an impact the man has had on the world, particularly in his efforts to bring peace to his home nation since his release from prison."

A commemoration book has been opened in the City Chambers to allow members of the public to record a personal birthday message. It will be in place until August 1, before being sent to Mr Mandela.

Organisers of the Edinburgh Mela have also agreed to consider including appropriate events in their forthcoming programme for this year.

A London charity rock concert last month marked the start of the birthday celebrations.

Tens of thousands of politicians, musicians, sporting heroes and ordinary fans of the man referred to affectionately in South Africa by his clan name Madiba have since sent him birthday wishes.

Mr Mandela, who spent 27 years imprisoned on Robben Island and later Pollsmoor jail, was released in 1990. He then negotiated the end of apartheid in South Africa and was elected president in the country's first fully democratic elections in 1994.

He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 and has won more than 100 other awards over the years for his dedication to the cause of freedom and equality.

Originally published by Alan Roden City Council Reporter.

(c) 2008 Evening News; Edinburgh (UK). Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.