THE last Commonwealth Games to be held in Scotland were affected by a major boycott over apartheid, writes Judith Duffy.

Nearly 30 years on, it was a very different scene as athletes and officials from the South African team sang and danced as they took part in celebrations in Glasgow to mark Nelson Mandela International Day.

Siphiwe Lusizi, 25, who will be competing in middleweight boxing at the Games, was among the team members attending the event in Nelson Mandela Place on Friday.

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"He is a father for us, he is also a icon for us, he is a hero for us," he said.

"We respect his birthday and we respect everything about him. We are pleased that Glasgow is holding these events. He came here after the struggle to celebrate, so it is part of the history."

Physiotherapist with South Africa, Given Baloyi, said: "We are here to honour our icon and we are proud that Scotland has organised this for Mandela Day."

The event involved guests including the former South African president's granddaughter Tukwini Mandela tying ribbons in the colours of the South African flag to the railings of St George's Tron Church and a performance by the Mzansi Youth Choir.

It was part of a series of celebrations taking place in Glasgow organised by Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA) Scotland, which continued yesterday with a reading of the "Robben Island Bible" at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow.

The book of Shakespeare's complete works, which will be on display at the library for three months, was smuggled into Robben Island, where Mandela spent 18 years of prison term, disguised as a religious text to prevent prison guards from seizing it. It was loaned to Glasgow by Sonny Venkatrathnam, who was a Robben Island prisoner at the same time as Mandela.

The book bears Mandela's signature dated December 16, 1977, beside a passage he underlined from Julius Caesar.

It reads: "Cowards die many times before their deaths. The valiant never taste of death but once. Of all the wonders that I have heard, it seems to me most strange that men should fear, seeing that death, a necessary end, will come when it will come."