This morning, in the town of Pau, France, at the start of the day's stage of the Tour de France, a large 5 x 1 metre banner reading "Happy Birthday Nelson Mandela", will be held up by children from the city.
Minister of Arts and Culture Paul Mashatile said the initiative provided an opportunity for both France and South Africa, which are currently engaged in a massive international exchange programme, to pay tribute to Nelson Mandela in an extraordinary way.
Commissioner General of the France-South Africa Seasons 2012 & 2013, Bongani Tembe, said the initiative was brought about on the French side by Institut francais and the organiser of the Tour de France, ASO, whose President is Christian Prudhomme.
"On the South African side, we have arranged the banner with the Nelson Mandela family as well as with SuperSport, which will broadcast the moment live, with coverage starting at 10:55am on SS6 and HD1," said Tembe.
He said that SuperSport, which is South Africa's largest TV sports network and its cooperation with the France-South Africa Seasons 2012 & 2013, has been a real boost to the initiative.
Commissioner General of the France-South Africa Seasons on the French side, Laurent Clavel, said the event in Pau will be witnessed by millions of people across the world, while thousands will line the route in France.
"It is an honour to be able to salute Nelson Mandela. The event at the Tour de France will generate a lot of interest in South Africa and will contribute to further cementing the relations between France and South Africa."
Clavel added that the children who have been chosen to hold up the banner will arrive at the starting line at approximately 10:15am.
The initiative is part of the France-South Africa Seasons 2012 & 2013, a bilateral programme promoting trade, education, scientific, sporting and cultural relations that was officially launched in South Africa last week.
The route from Pau to the next stop at BagnSres-de-Luchon forms part of the notorious mountain stage of the race, involving four critically difficult mountain passes.
The Tour de France is the third largest sporting event in the world, broadcast live in some 190 countries by 100 different television channels. Running from 30 June -22 July 2012, the 99th Tour de France is made up of one prologue and 20 stages, covering a total distance of 3 497 kilometres.
The French Season in South Africa 2012 comprises some 120 different projects, performances and initiatives that will take place across South Africa in the next six months.
The rich programme includes cultural and collaborative events in various fields - theatre, dance, art, music, photography, cinema, street art, literature, performing arts, innovation, science and technology, education, business, tourism, sport, art de vivre and more.