Mandela's family views open casket

PRETORIA - Nelson Mandela's family gathered around his open casket Wednesday, marking the beginning of three days in which the former president will lie in state.

Mandela's coffin was placed inside the cavernous amphitheatre of Union Buildings - South Africa's seat of government - on a cubic platform.

Two military officers clad in white dress uniform stood guard at each entrance with swords pointing downward.

Earlier Mandela's funeral cortege had rolled through Pretoria to cheers from flag waving crowds.

His coffin was carried up the steps toward the towering acropolis of beige freestone, trailed by Mandela's oldest grandson, Mandla Mandela.

His manifest grief was a poignant reminder that while the nation lost a hero, Mandela's family lost a father, grandfather and husband.

After the family had paid their respects, Mandla sat inside ready to receive presidents, celebrities and other dignitaries.