At football grounds across Scotland and the rest of the UK, minutes of applause were held before kick-off in honour of South Africa's first black president, who died on Thursday at the age of 95.
The Scottish Professional Football League said it had contacted all member clubs to encourage the gesture at fixtures as a "mark of respect for and to celebrate the life" of Mandela.
The tributes stretched across the sporting spectrum, from club cricket matches to fun runs in South Africa.
It emerged that a cricket one-day international against India in Durban will go ahead as planned today after talks with the government over whether to postpone it as a mark of respect. It will include tributes to Mandela - known affectionately by his clan name Madiba - reflecting his belief in the power of sport to unite divided peoples.
The International Olympic Committee announced it would lower the Olympic flag for three days in tribute.
Sebastian Coe, chairman of the British Olympic Association and head of the London 2012 Games, said Mandela had been an inspiration.
Lord Coe said: "The values that are at the heart of sport - equality, opportunity and mutual understanding - are the very same values Nelson Mandela fought to instil and uphold.
"He lived his life with courage and conviction, and as we mourn his passing, we are grateful for the unending inspiration he has given us all."
Other stars from the world of sport also paid tribute.
South African golfer Ernie Els called Mandela an "iconic leader".
He said: "It is a very sad day, a very sad day for South Africa and the world. He fought for what he believed in, went to prison for so many years and came out to lead our country. He was the father of our country and our continent."
The Muslim Council of Britain joined the chorus of tributes, describing Mandela as "one of the greatest campaigners of freedom".
Secretary general Farooq Murad said: "Muslims will remember him fondly, and we join South Africa's Muslims who participated in the campaign for his freedom and the struggle against apartheid.
"We convey our condolence to his family and the people of South Africa, the Rainbow Nation."
In Johannesburg, Mandela's family yesterday held a press conference to remind the world that his death also represents a personal loss for them. Family spokesman General Themba Matanzima said it had "not been easy for the last few days" since Mandela's death.
He said: "The pillar of the family is gone, just as he was away during that 27 painful years of imprisonment, but in our hearts and souls he will always be with us, his spirit endures.
"As a family we commit ourselves to uphold and be guided by the values he lived for and was prepared to die for.
"As a family we learned from him to appreciate the values that made him the leader that was recognised by all.
"Chief among these is the lesson that a life lived for others is a life well lived."
Preparations are under way for a week of national mourning, culminating in Mandela's burial next Sunday at his ancestral home in Qunu in the Eastern Cape province, 450 miles south of Johannesburg.
US President Barack Obama will be among a host of dignitaries expected to take part in the events.
President Jacob Zuma, who broke the news of Mandela's death in a televised address to South Africa's 52 million people, also announced that a memorial service would take place on Tuesday at Johannesburg's Soccer City, the site of the 2010 World Cup final and Mandela's last public appearance, when he waved to fans from the back of a golf cart.
Zuma said: "We will spend the week mourning his passing. We will also spend it celebrating a life well lived."