Sports world celebrates Mandela's birthday

The Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Elysees Avenue are illuminated with the colour of Tour de France winner: yellow.
The Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Elysees Avenue are illuminated with the colour of Tour de France winner: yellow.
The main pack rides past the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
The main pack rides past the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
Chris Froome of Great Britain and SKY Procycling ride in the main pack through the streets of Paris.
Chris Froome of Great Britain and SKY Procycling ride in the main pack through the streets of Paris.
The riders cycle on the banks of the Seine river past the Eiffel Tower on the final stage of the Tour de France.
The riders cycle on the banks of the Seine river past the Eiffel Tower on the final stage of the Tour de France.
Nairo Quintana of Colombia and Movistar Team celebrates winning stage 20.
Nairo Quintana of Colombia and Movistar Team celebrates winning stage 20.
Chris Froome celebrates on the podium as he secures the leader's yellow jersey after stage 20.
Chris Froome celebrates on the podium as he secures the leader's yellow jersey after stage 20.
The pack of riders cycle during the 125 km stage from Annecy to Annecy-Semnoz.
The pack of riders cycle during the 125 km stage from Annecy to Annecy-Semnoz.
The pack of riders cycle during the 125 km stage from Annecy to Annecy-Semnoz.
The pack of riders cycle during the 125 km stage from Annecy to Annecy-Semnoz.
Kiwi Jack Bauer is in agony after falling from his bike into a barbed-wire fence during the 19th stage of the Tour de France.
Kiwi Jack Bauer is in agony after falling from his bike into a barbed-wire fence during the 19th stage of the Tour de France.
A spectator holds a Portugal flag with 'Rui Costa' written on it.
A spectator holds a Portugal flag with 'Rui Costa' written on it.
Rui Costa holds up two fingers as he wins his second stage of the Tour de France.
Rui Costa holds up two fingers as he wins his second stage of the Tour de France.
Alberto Contador sprints to the line in stage 19.
Alberto Contador sprints to the line in stage 19.
Riders head up two major climbs during the 204km 19th stage.
Riders head up two major climbs during the 204km 19th stage.
Riders in the peloton head up an incline during the 19th stage.
Riders in the peloton head up an incline during the 19th stage.
The view that greets riders near the top of the l'Alpe d'Huez ascent.
The view that greets riders near the top of the l'Alpe d'Huez ascent.
Christophe Riblon of Team AG2R La Mondiale shows his exhaustion after crossing the line at the top of l'Alpe d'Huez.
Christophe Riblon of Team AG2R La Mondiale shows his exhaustion after crossing the line at the top of l'Alpe d'Huez.
EXTENDING LEAD: Chris Froome gets a pat on the back from team-mate Richie Porte, who supported the Tour leader up the second l'Alpe d'Huez climb on Stage 18.
EXTENDING LEAD: Chris Froome gets a pat on the back from team-mate Richie Porte, who supported the Tour leader up the second l'Alpe d'Huez climb on Stage 18.
Tour de France riders wait behind a large picture of former South African president Nelson Mandela on his 95th birthday.
Tour de France riders wait behind a large picture of former South African president Nelson Mandela on his 95th birthday.
Team Radioshack's Andy Schleck speaks with reporters ahead of stage 18.
Team Radioshack's Andy Schleck speaks with reporters ahead of stage 18.
Chris Froome powers his way to victory in the 32km individual time trial, the 17th stage.
Chris Froome powers his way to victory in the 32km individual time trial, the 17th stage.
Haimar Zubeldia makes his way up a climb as heavy rain falls.
Haimar Zubeldia makes his way up a climb as heavy rain falls.
Briton Mark Cavendish rides over a Union Jack painted on the road.
Briton Mark Cavendish rides over a Union Jack painted on the road.
Spectators often turn the Tour de France into a Halloween party.
Spectators often turn the Tour de France into a Halloween party.
Team Garmin Sharp's David Millar rides past spectators at the top of a climb.
Team Garmin Sharp's David Millar rides past spectators at the top of a climb.
Team Movistar's Rui Costa grinds his way up an incline.
Team Movistar's Rui Costa grinds his way up an incline.
Rui Costa's solo break paid off as he claimed the 16th stage.
Rui Costa's solo break paid off as he claimed the 16th stage.
Tour leader Chris Froome takes a sip from his water bottle during stage 16.
Tour leader Chris Froome takes a sip from his water bottle during stage 16.
Team Sky lead the peloton during the Tour de France's 16th stage.
Team Sky lead the peloton during the Tour de France's 16th stage.
A spectator draws on the road during a mountainous stage.
A spectator draws on the road during a mountainous stage.
The peloton rides past a field of sunflowers during stage 15 of the 2013 Tour de France, a 242.5km road stage from Givors to Mont Ventoux.
The peloton rides past a field of sunflowers during stage 15 of the 2013 Tour de France, a 242.5km road stage from Givors to Mont Ventoux.
Yellow jersey holder Chris Froome approaches the finish line to win stage 15.
Yellow jersey holder Chris Froome approaches the finish line to win stage 15.
Peter Kennaugh of Great Britain and SKY Procycling rides at the front of the peloton during stage 15.
Peter Kennaugh of Great Britain and SKY Procycling rides at the front of the peloton during stage 15.
Rui Costa of Portugal and Movistar Team tries to launch an attack at the front of the peloton during stage 15.
Rui Costa of Portugal and Movistar Team tries to launch an attack at the front of the peloton during stage 15.
Matteo Trentin reacts as he claims the 14th stage win for Omega Pharma-Quick Step.
Matteo Trentin reacts as he claims the 14th stage win for Omega Pharma-Quick Step.
Arthur Vichot (right) and Luis Angel Mate Mardonnes attempt to make a breakaway.
Arthur Vichot (right) and Luis Angel Mate Mardonnes attempt to make a breakaway.
The breakaway group passes by a field during the 14th stage.
The breakaway group passes by a field during the 14th stage.
The Tour de France peloton arrive at a village during stage 14.
The Tour de France peloton arrive at a village during stage 14.
The 14th stage breakaway group ride through a feed station.
The 14th stage breakaway group ride through a feed station.
Mark Cavendish of Omega Pharmac-Quick Step raises his arms as he crosses the line to win stage 13.
Mark Cavendish of Omega Pharmac-Quick Step raises his arms as he crosses the line to win stage 13.
Jose Joaquin Rojas takes a glance back at the chasing bunch.
Jose Joaquin Rojas takes a glance back at the chasing bunch.
The Tour de France peloton head through a village during the 13th stage.
The Tour de France peloton head through a village during the 13th stage.
Daniele Bennati of Team Saxo-Tinkoff gets in aerodynamic position during a descent on stage 13.
Daniele Bennati of Team Saxo-Tinkoff gets in aerodynamic position during a descent on stage 13.
Alberto Contador (right) and Michael Rogers (left) of Team Saxo-Tinkoff chat with Team Radioshack Leopard's Haimar Zubeldia.
Alberto Contador (right) and Michael Rogers (left) of Team Saxo-Tinkoff chat with Team Radioshack Leopard's Haimar Zubeldia.
Marcel Kittel (right) beats Mark Cavendish across the line to win stage 12.
Marcel Kittel (right) beats Mark Cavendish across the line to win stage 12.
Team Sky riders, including yellow jersey holder Chris Froome, lead the peloton.
Team Sky riders, including yellow jersey holder Chris Froome, lead the peloton.
Tour de France spectators hold a sign in support of leader Chris Froome.
Tour de France spectators hold a sign in support of leader Chris Froome.
A banana hangs out of the back pocket of Arthur Vichot.
A banana hangs out of the back pocket of Arthur Vichot.
Brett Lancaster receives assistance from a crew member during the 12th stage.
Brett Lancaster receives assistance from a crew member during the 12th stage.
German rider Tony Martin climbs on the podium after winning stage 11.
German rider Tony Martin climbs on the podium after winning stage 11.
Alberto Contador grimaces as he heads to the finish of stage 11.
Alberto Contador grimaces as he heads to the finish of stage 11.
Yellow jersey holder Chris Froome races during the individual time trial.
Yellow jersey holder Chris Froome races during the individual time trial.
German Marcel Kittel, who won stage 10, relaxes before the start of stage 11.
German Marcel Kittel, who won stage 10, relaxes before the start of stage 11.
Team Sky's Geraint Thomas heads out on the 33km individual time trial.
Team Sky's Geraint Thomas heads out on the 33km individual time trial.
Stage nine winner Dan Martin of the Garmin-Sharp team crosses the finish line.
Stage nine winner Dan Martin of the Garmin-Sharp team crosses the finish line.
Riders tackle the Val Louron-Azet pass during stage nine of the Tour de France.
Riders tackle the Val Louron-Azet pass during stage nine of the Tour de France.
The peleton are cheered on by the crowd during stage nine.
The peleton are cheered on by the crowd during stage nine.
Ride set off for stage nine of the Tour de France.
Ride set off for stage nine of the Tour de France.
Team Sky's Chris Froome puts on the yellow jersey after stage eight.
Team Sky's Chris Froome puts on the yellow jersey after stage eight.
Chris Froome raises his arm after winning stage eight by 51 seconds.
Chris Froome raises his arm after winning stage eight by 51 seconds.
Team Sky, led by Richie Porte, make their way up an ascent.
Team Sky, led by Richie Porte, make their way up an ascent.
Team Sky riders pass through the French countryside on stage eight.
Team Sky riders pass through the French countryside on stage eight.
Team Omega Pharma-Quick Step readers read newspapers before the start of the stage.
Team Omega Pharma-Quick Step readers read newspapers before the start of the stage.
Riders stack on top of each other after a crash on a small bridge during stage seven.
Riders stack on top of each other after a crash on a small bridge during stage seven.
Christian Vande Velde is treated after a crash during the seventh stage from Montpellier.
Christian Vande Velde is treated after a crash during the seventh stage from Montpellier.
The peloton heads through the French countryside.
The peloton heads through the French countryside.
Riders head off on the 205km seventh stage from Montpellier to Albi.
Riders head off on the 205km seventh stage from Montpellier to Albi.
Mark Cavendish celebrates as he crosses the line to win stage five of the 100th Tour de France.
Mark Cavendish celebrates as he crosses the line to win stage five of the 100th Tour de France.
The main bunch passes by a moutain-side town in the French countryside.
The main bunch passes by a moutain-side town in the French countryside.
Tour de France spectators, dressed as superheroes Batman and Robin, run alongside riders.
Tour de France spectators, dressed as superheroes Batman and Robin, run alongside riders.
Chris Froome leads Team Sky at the front of the peloton during the fifth stage.
Chris Froome leads Team Sky at the front of the peloton during the fifth stage.
Simon Gerrans has the number on his back fixed by an Orica-GreenEdge team member.
Simon Gerrans has the number on his back fixed by an Orica-GreenEdge team member.
Cannondale rider Ted King speaks to reporters after Tour de France organisers pulled him from the race.
Cannondale rider Ted King speaks to reporters after Tour de France organisers pulled him from the race.
Orica GreenEdge riders head along the Promenade de Anglais during the team time-trial during stage four of the Tour de France.
Orica GreenEdge riders head along the Promenade de Anglais during the team time-trial during stage four of the Tour de France.
Riders head along Promenade de Anglais in Nice.
Riders head along Promenade de Anglais in Nice.
Saxo Tinkoff riders compete in stage four in Nice.
Saxo Tinkoff riders compete in stage four in Nice.
Team Garmin-Sharp rides compete in the 25km team time-trial fourth stage.
Team Garmin-Sharp rides compete in the 25km team time-trial fourth stage.
Team Lotto Belisol head around the streets of Nice, in the south of France.
Team Lotto Belisol head around the streets of Nice, in the south of France.
Jan Bakelants of Belgium and Radioshack Leopard celebrates on the podium as he wears the yellow jersey after winning stage two.
Jan Bakelants of Belgium and Radioshack Leopard celebrates on the podium as he wears the yellow jersey after winning stage two.
Jan Bakelants of Belgium and Radioshack Leopard crosses the finishing line to win stage two.
Jan Bakelants of Belgium and Radioshack Leopard crosses the finishing line to win stage two.
The pack of riders cycles on its way during the 156 km second stage of the centenary Tour de France cycling race from Bastia to Ajaccio, on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica.
The pack of riders cycles on its way during the 156 km second stage of the centenary Tour de France cycling race from Bastia to Ajaccio, on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica.
The peloton rides through the countryside during stage two of the 2013 Tour de France, a 156KM road stage from Bastia to Ajaccio.
The peloton rides through the countryside during stage two of the 2013 Tour de France, a 156KM road stage from Bastia to Ajaccio.
Cycling jerseys are hung in a line to greet cyclists in the city of Corte during the156 km second stage of the centenary Tour de France cycling race from Bastia to Ajaccio.
Cycling jerseys are hung in a line to greet cyclists in the city of Corte during the156 km second stage of the centenary Tour de France cycling race from Bastia to Ajaccio.
Marcel Kittel reacts as he crosses the line to win the first stage of the Tour de France.
Marcel Kittel reacts as he crosses the line to win the first stage of the Tour de France.
Riders head past a beach in Porto Vecchio on the island of Corsica.
Riders head past a beach in Porto Vecchio on the island of Corsica.
First stage winner Marcel Kittel (left) is congratulated by team-mate John Degenkolb.
First stage winner Marcel Kittel (left) is congratulated by team-mate John Degenkolb.
The Orica-Greenedge team bus collides with the finishing banner prior to the race arriving at the end of stage one.
The Orica-Greenedge team bus collides with the finishing banner prior to the race arriving at the end of stage one.
Riders at the front of the peleton head up a rise.
Riders at the front of the peleton head up a rise.
Alberto Contador of Spain rides with his Saxo-Tinkoff team.
Alberto Contador of Spain rides with his Saxo-Tinkoff team.
The peleton sets out at the start of the first stage.
The peleton sets out at the start of the first stage.
The peleton begins stage one in Porto Vecchio.
The peleton begins stage one in Porto Vecchio.

Sports figures around the world showed their love for Nelson Mandela today, the anti-apartheid hero's 95th birthday.

At the British Open, Tiger Woods talked about the unique energy Mandela exuded when they first met, while some of South Africa's biggest stars proudly tweeted pictures of their own encounters with the adored former president.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter wrote to Mandela to wish him a happy birthday and thank him for "championing" the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, and Premier League club Manchester City will play a game later today in his honour.

"Today we remember your courageous fight against oppression and the inspirational example you set to others who are battling injustice," Blatter wrote to South Africa's first democratic president. "May this message transmit to you all the energy, strength and goodwill of the football community as you continue your recovery from illness."

The aging Mandela remains hospitalised but his birthday coincided with a statement from South Africa's current president, Jacob Zuma, saying his health was improving.

Mandela's unifying legacy pervades nearly all sports, a strong connection that meant a question about the Nobel Peace Prize winner in the buildup to a major golf tournament wasn't at all out of place this week.

Woods, at the British Open in Scotland, said his 1998 meeting with Mandela was an experience he would "never, ever forget" and recounted the visit with his late father to the then-president's Johannesburg home.

"It still gives me chills to this day, thinking about it," Woods said this week. "A gentleman asked us to go into this side room ... and we walked in the room and my dad and I were just kind of looking around. And I said, 'Dad, do you feel that?' And he says, 'Yeah, it feels different in this room.' And it was just like a different energy in the room.

"We just looked at each other and just shrugged our shoulders. And maybe, I'm guessing probably 30 seconds later, I heard some movement behind me and it was President Mandela folding up the paper. And it was pretty amazing. The energy that he has, that he exudes, is unlike any person I've ever met."

In South Africa, Mandela's inspirational appearances at the Rugby World Cup final in 1995 and football's African Cup of Nations final a year later are as much a part of the country's sporting heritage as its winning teams on those days - maybe more.

His advanced years and numerous visits to the hospital recently have left South Africans fearing for their ailing father figure, but sportsmen and sportswomen took the opportunity to celebrate his birthday.

A list of stars paid tribute, some affectionately referring to Mandela by his clan name Madiba, others using "Tata," a word that means father.

"Happy birthday (hash)Madiba," Bryan Habana, one of South Africa's top rugby players and a 2007 World Cup winner, wrote on Twitter. "As a nation we salute you and keep you in our prayers!"

Habana also posted a photograph of himself and teammates with a smiling Mandela on a previous birthday.

South Africa cricket captain AB de Villiers, in Sri Lanka for a series, said: "There are no words to describe the impact Madiba has made on us as cricketers and for sport in our country."

Olympic swimming champions Chad le Clos, Cameron van der Burgh and Kirsty Coventry, who is from Zimbabwe, all posted messages, as did Everton midfielder Steven Pienaar, who wrote: "Big happy birthday to my hero TaTa Madiba."

Golfer Gary Player recalled that a humourous and humble Mandela once asked him at a meeting at a tournament: "Gary, do you still remember me?"

A South African football magazine put together a montage of photographs of what it called Mandela's iconic football moments, including him grinning gleefully and holding the World Cup when South Africa won the right to host, and another with former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson.

One image, from Ethiopia and at the bottom of the collection, shows a banner hoisted by local fans during a fiercely contested recent World Cup qualifier against South Africa. Despite the intense battle on the field, the Ethiopian supporters in their striped team shirts stand in front of a huge sign that reads: "We Love Mandela!! We Will Always Be At Your Side."

IN HONOUR: Tour de France riders wait behind a large picture of former South African president Nelson Mandela on his 95th birthday.
IN HONOUR: Tour de France riders wait behind a large picture of former South African president Nelson Mandela on his 95th birthday.

AP