OTD: Tens of thousands honour Nelson Mandela at Wembley Stadium concert

On today’s date in 1990, only two months after being released from a 27-year stint in a South African prison, Nelson Mandela was honoured at a concert at London’s Wembley Stadium.

More than 70,000 people gathered to honour the recently freed African National Congress leader at the International Tribute for a Free South Africa charity concert. Performers included Neil Young, Peter Gabriel, Lou Reed, Tracy Chapman and Bonnie Raitt, among others, but Mandela was the man of honour.

“We have always looked forward to this occasion, an occasion when we can thank the British people for the support which they have given us in the course of our anti-apartheid struggle,” Mandela was quoted as saying in a Los Angeles Times story published on April 16, 1990.

Two years earlier – for Mandela’s 70th birthday – another tribute concert was held at Wembley Stadium, where other celebrities called for the revolutionary political leader’s release from prison.

“That event was widely praised for putting international pressure on the South African government; buoyed by the release of Mandela, organizers aimed to put further pressure the South African regime with a second concert,” reads a Time magazine story published on Dec 6, 2013, a day after Mandela’s death.

“During the five-and-a-half-hour concert, myriad acts took to the stage to honour and support Mandela, and to champion the end of apartheid. Just four years later, not only would apartheid be dismantled but Mandela would become the first black president of South Africa.”


In 2015, Mandela was commemorated on a Permanent stamp issued by Canada Post.

“Nelson Mandela, an honorary Canadian citizen, is an inspiration to everyone who values human rights,” said Chris Alexander, then Canada’s minister of citizenship and immigration. “As a great champion of freedom, beloved by Canadians, he will forever be remembered as a man whose courage changed not just South Africa, but also the world.”

The stamp’s design is based on a photograph of Mandela taken during his first visit to Canada in 1990 – only four months after his release from prison – by Armenian-Canadian photographer Yousuf Karsh.

A single-stamp souvenir sheet paying the $2.50 international rate was also issued as part of the 2015 Mandela set.


The Mandela set, which includes a 10-stamp booklet, single-stamp souvenir sheet and first-day cover, was printed by the Canadian Bank Note Company.

Designed by Ian Drolet, the stamp shows a black-and-white image of Mandela with the South African flag in colour in the background. The booklet’s stamps are self-adhesive and printed on Tullis Russell Coatings coated paper with simulated perforations.

The same design is used for a $2.50 international-rate stamp on the souvenir sheet, which also features a 1994 photograph by Jurgen Schadeberg showing Mandela in his former prison cell on Robben Island. The souvenir sheet also uses Tullis Russell paper but with water-activated gum.

An official first-day cover also issued as part of the set is serviced with an Ottawa cancellation, which has a floral emblem in the centre.

A prominent anti-apartheid leader and South Africa’s first black president, Mandela was made an honorary citizen of Canada in 2001 during his third visit to the country. He was the first living person to receive this honour.

Following a prolonged respiratory infection, Mandela died on Dec. 5, 2013. He was 95.

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