HEROE’S WELCOME—Former South African President Nelson Mandela and his wife Graca Machel wave to the crowd during the closing ceremony before the World Cup final soccer match between the Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City in Johannesburg, July 11.

JOHANNESBURG (AP)—Nelson Mandela waved to the crowd and Shakira had fans dancing in their seats as South Africa began saying

farewell to the 2010 World Cup in emotional and pulsating fashion.

The anti-apartheid icon, who celebrated his 92nd birthday July 18, had kept a low profile during the month-long tournament, having decided against attending the opening game following the death of his great-grand daughter.

Driven in a small golf cart alongside wife Graca Machel, a smiling Mandela was welcomed by a thunderous mix of vuvuzelas and roars from the crowd. He shook hands with officials before leaving the field a few minutes later.

Shakira, backed by South African Afro-fusion band Freshlyground, did one last rendition of the cup’s theme tune, “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)” after a lights show and fireworks. Also performing July 11 was Grammy Award-winning a cappella group Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

The ceremony was attended by heads of state from across Africa, including South Africa’s Jacob Zuma and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe. Dutch and Spanish royals were also present, as were Archbishop Desmon Tutu and former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. They were rubbing shoulders with the likes of model Naomi Campbell and Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman.

Dancers wearing the colors of the 32 competing nations performed before a backdrop of pictures of stars and fans beamed onto the pitch; others dressed in white elephant costumes made their way onto the field toward large image of a watering hole. Themes included pantsula and gumboot dancing and local jazz—all touchstones of South African music.

CROWD PLEASER—Colombian pop star Shakira performs during the closing ceremony ahead of the World Cup final soccer match between the Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City in Johannesburg, July 11.

Dutch and Spanish fans led a carnival atmosphere before the match, embracing police officers outside the stadium and posing for photographs while blowing vuvuzelas, the horn whose sound has become synonymous with the 2010 tournament.

Some had doubted South Africa’s ability to stage a successful tournament, but the matches were played before mostly capacity—and joyous—crowds. The competition, the first to be held in Africa, was free of any major incidents.

“We have bedazzled ourselves, and the world, with our warmth, efficiency, beauty and our promise,” said Tutu, who won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his fight against apartheid. “Never before have we experienced this overwhelming joy of unity in purpose.”

Across the ideological spectrum, South African politicians, civic leaders and news media hailed the tournament as a defining moment for their country—on the scale of Mandela’s election as president in 1994.

“It was a coming of age for South Africa, 16 years old and now the darling of the planet,” said The Star, a Johannesburg daily. “It was Africa shouting out for a chance to show just what Africans could do…They delivered and then some.”

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