Only one man was ever going to please the soaked, restless and expectant crowd at Nelson Mandela's memorial service on Tuesday. They wanted soaring rhetoric, they wanted hope and above all they wanted President Barack Obama, who arrived very late but was greeted with a massive roar by those inside the stadium.
Speaking of Mandela as his personal inspiration, the US leader declared: "He makes me want to be a better man." The wild response made clear that here in South Africa at least he was seen as the heir to Nelson Mandela, the man whose death last Thursday the crowd might have come to mourn, but whose life they wanted most of all to celebrate.
Obama was inspired to make an audacious speech - even daring to lecture some of the 90 other world leaders sitting around him for failing to live up to the example set by "the great liberator". Praising "a life like no other" he said: "It took a man like Mandela to liberate not just the prisoner, but the jailer as well."
The speech was passionate and heartfelt. Americans had been through the same struggle for equal rights he said, adding: "Michelle and I are beneficiaries of that." To people watching inside the FNB stadium and in the wider South Africa, he said: "The world thanks you for sharing Nelson Mandela with us. His struggle was your struggle. His triumph was your triumph."
Heavy rain was blamed for rows of empty seats in the uncovered section of the stadium, along with travel delays and the refusal of the increasingly unpopular President Jacob Zuma to declare a national holiday. But for the world leaders gathered in comfortable seats under cover, this was an extraordinary chance to get together in an atmosphere that was unexpectedly relaxed. They were all dressed as for a funeral, but there were wide grins as Obama and David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, posed for a "selfie" photograph with the rather glamorous prime minister of Denmark, Helle Thorning-Schmidt.
Michelle Obama did not appear altogether pleased at just how well her husband was getting on with his new Danish friend, and stared away from the scene. The energised Obama even shared a warm greeting with America's most awkward neighbour, Raul Castro, the leader of Cuba.
Ban Ki-Moon, the Secretary General of the United Nations, spoke of Mandela's "awesome power of forgiveness, and of connecting people with each other" and added: "He has done it again. Look around this stadium and this stage." This was thought to be the largest gathering of world leaders at an event of this kind since the funeral of Winston Churchill in 1965, but the mood among them was set by the brief they had been given that this was a celebration of a long and great life. Having flown in overnight, Cameron arrived at the stadium early, saying he hadn't wanted to get stuck in traffic.
"You know us Brits get there on time," he said; but his promptness helped him avoid a difficult encounter with his own bogeyman, the late-arriving president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe. Instead he could mix with the likes of Bono, lead singer of U2, the supermodel Naomi Campbell and the Hollywood star Charlize Theron. Born in South Africa, she welled up when relating how her memories of Mandela were "just a tremendous memory of love and compassion and warmth".
Even Nick Clegg, the British Deputy Prime Minister, was able to enjoy his own special moment, with Bill Clinton, one of the four past and present American presidents in the stadium. Jimmy Carter and George W Bush were the others. Every living British former prime minister was also present, including Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Sir John Major, who said: "It's very difficult to see that anyone's life will be quite as extraordinary as Nelson Mandela's in the way it has affected this country and the rest of the world. It's a celebration and there's a lot to celebrate."
Obama appeared troubled by the conditions at first, but relaxed so much during his speech that he even attempted a local accent, when praising Mandela as the embodiment of the African ideal of unity, Ubuntu. He then became even bolder, as if being this close to Mandela's memory had charged him up, bringing back memories of his first, hope-filled campaign for the US presidency. Attempting to live up to the crowd's expectations and take on Mandela's mantle, Obama challenged his fellow presidents, prime ministers and heads of state to search their souls and ask whether they lived up to the example of the man they had come to praise.
"Around the world today, men and women are still imprisoned for their political beliefs; and are still persecuted for what they look like, how they worship and who they love," he said in the presence of leaders of Iran, China and Zimbabwe, among others. "There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba's struggle for freedom but do not tolerate dissent from their own people."
But there was dissent inside the stadium, where even members of the Mandela family struggled to make themselves heard against the surge of boos and jeers every time the face of Zuma appeared on giant screens in the stadium. Three of Mandela's grandchildren and one of his great-grandchildren looked distressed by the treatment as they read a poem in his memory that compared him to "a giant tree that has fallen, scattering a thousand brilliant leaves".
The loud dissent was embarrassing for the ruling ANC party and in particular Zuma, at a moment when their country was the centre of the world's attention. But many in the crowd managed to brush off mere politics and insist on giving even louder thanks for the life of the Nobel laureate, whose face appeared on many brightly coloured clothes.
Down in the enclosure where the Mandela family sat, all dressed in black, there was, understandably, only deep mourning. Graca Machel, his third wife and now widow, made her first public appearance since his death at the start of the month. She moved slowly to her place with a furrowed brow, looking devastated. This was the second time she had been to a funeral service for a husband, having lost President Samora of Mozambique to a plane crash nearly 30 years ago.
Machel sat near to Winnie Mandela, the second wife who had entered on the arm of her daughter Zindzi. This was a show of unity from the Mandela clan, whose members fought each other in the courts all summer even as the patriarch was lying on life support in hospital. Mandla, the grandson who attempted to force the others to bury his grandfather in his own village, to his own potential gain, was back among his family. The traditional funeral will instead take place on Sunday in Qunu, the village in the Eastern Cape that Nelson Mandela regarded as his home.
World leaders were asked to keep away from it because of the difficulty of travel in the remote region, but Prince Charles is believed to be making plans to attend. The stadium in which yesterday's ceremony took place was on the site where Mandela made his first major public speech after being released from prison after 27 years, in 1990. The rebuilt arena was also where he made his last public appearance during the closing ceremony for the 2010 World Cup. After a long illness, he died at the age of 95.
Tickets for yesterday's event were free, as were the buses and trains laid on to take people there. Boitshepo Matsitsi, 25, a businesswoman from Soweto, said she rose at 4.30am and drove her car to the security cordon before getting out and walking the rest of the way. "I've never felt so close to Madiba. We wouldn't have missed this for anything." Yvonne Moratiele, 37, her head wrapped in an ANC scarf and a flag draping her body, said Mandela would be getting the send-off he deserved.
"In Africa, when the lion dies, the jungle roars. We're here to make sure that happens." When President Zuma came to the stage at last he gave a poor speech, reading from notes that he held close to his chest. His promise to follow Mandela in working to free South Africa of hunger, homelessness and inequality will not have appeased those who accuse him of squandering his predecessor's legacy and acting out of self interest. Thato Makapa, 36, summed up the boos for Zuma in one word: "Corruption. How can he stand on a podium and talk about our Madiba?" The day really belonged to Obama. "He reminds us of Madiba," said Viola Maliti, 37, a judge's secretary. "He was also the first black president. He may not have done much for Africa yet but there's still time."
Obama took care to praise "the other early giants of the ANC" and said he had first heard the name of Nelson Mandela - and learned of the struggle against apartheid - when he was a young student. "It stirred something in me. It woke me up to my responsibilities - to others, and to myself - and set me on an improbable journey that finds me here today." He praised Mandela for admitting his imperfections and for being full of mischief.
"He was not a bust made of marble; he was a man of flesh and blood - a son and husband, a father and a friend. That is why we learned so much from him; that is why we can learn from him still." Bringing his speech to a climax with the words of Nelson Mandela's favourite poem, Invictus, he said: "?'I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.' What a magnificent soul it was. We will miss him deeply."