Monday 23 October 2017

Clinton and Crystal among speakers at 'service for the world'

Bill Clinton and Muhammad Ali Photo: Getty Images
Bill Clinton and Muhammad Ali Photo: Getty Images

Nick Allen

Muhammad Ali will be mourned with a huge procession and funeral in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky on Friday, with former US President Bill Clinton to give a eulogy at a service to which "the world" is invited.

The interfaith service, which was planned in detail by Ali himself, will be led by an imam but will also include representatives of other faiths including Mormonism.

His family said the funeral would be open to the public to "allow anyone that is there from the world to say goodbye".

A mourning procession will take him through the streets where he grew up, including spots that were "historically important" to him, his family said.

He instructed that the procession move slowly so that fans could pay their respects.

The route will include the road now called Muhammad Ali Boulevard, and his final resting place will be at Cave Hill cemetery.

The memorial service will be held at the city's basketball arena, which can accommodate a crowd of 22,000 and will be open to the public.

It will also be streamed on the internet and another eulogy will be given by Billy Crystal, the actor.

Bob Gunnell, the family's spokesman, said: "The service is going to be in the Muslim tradition but Muhammad loved all people.

"It's important to have a memorial service open to people of all walks of life. The service, the funeral plans, were done years ago by Mr Ali who discussed them personally with the imam.

"Muhammad Ali was truly the people's champion. His family invite everyone to join them for the celebration."

A private service for the immediate family will be held the previous day at a funeral home.

The tributes flowed over the weekend after Ali's death was announced in the early hours of Saturday morning Irish time.

"Part of me is gone," said George Foreman, defeated by Ali in Kinshasha in 1974. "He was one of the greatest human beings I have ever met. One of the best people to have lived in this day and age."

Floyd Mayweather, world champion boxer across five divisions, spoke for millions who said that "black people all around the world needed him. He was the voice for us. He's the voice for me to be where I'm at today."

The American president, Barack Obama, compared Ali to Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. He "stood up when it was hard; spoke out when others wouldn't," Obama said. Ali "shook up the world. And the world is all the better for it. We are all better for it," he added - a sentiment which the civil rights campaigner Reverend Jesse Jackson echoed.

"When champions win, they ride on people's shoulders," was how Jackson reflected on Ali. "When Muhammad Ali won, we rode on his shoulders."

Ali's daughter Hana remembered her father on Saturday as a "Humble Mountain" with a "beautiful soul" and thanked the public for the outpouring of support.

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