Handsworth leisure centre in Holly Road, Handsworth is to be renamed Nelson Mandela Health and Wellbeing Centre
The announcement was made at cabinet today, Monday 16 December 2013.
Members of cabinet stood for a minute’s silence, followed by words from the leader and deputy leader.
Sir Albert Bore, Leader of Birmingham City Council, said:
“In light of yesterday’s funeral, and final laying to rest, of Nelson Mandela, I would like to take the opportunity before we start today’s Cabinet for the Group Leaders and myself to pay our final and formal respects to the South African prisoner turned president.
“Many of you will remember, and for those who don’t, Nelson Mandela visited Birmingham in 1993. He came to thank the people of the city for their support for the anti-apartheid movement and contribution to the international groundswell, which led to his eventual release from prison.
“Huge crowds turned out and Nelson Mandela invited the people of Birmingham to join his extended family. This was just months before he swept to power as South Africa’s first black president.
“Birmingham, in turn and under the leadership of Sir Richard Knowles, responded to Mandela’s release by officially twinning Birmingham with Johannesburg and also established an exchange programme for the staff of both councils.
“During the last ten days, since Nelson Mandela passed away, people the world over, whether statesmen or ordinary men and women, have offered tributes to a truly unique individual. He has to be one of the greatest leaders of our time, who through enormous personal struggle achieved freedom for his people, the people of South Africa. He dedicated his entire life to fighting inequality and unfairness and we have heard much during the last week of how he carried that out with humility and humour.
“And as someone who was enormously privileged to have met Nelson Mandela at a private dinner when he came to Birmingham 20 years ago, I can confirm the widely held views of a man of great charisma but also of great humanity, which was all the more remarkable when you consider what he had been through in the previous 30 years and more.
“During his visit to Birmingham, Nelson Mandela attended a music concert at the Symphony Hall; met with business people where he asked for help in rebuilding South Africa; spoke to a packed audience at the new International Convention Centre for two hours without notes, as though he was holding a conversation; and of course visited the Nelson Mandela Primary School, in Sparkbrook, where he spoke with staff and was greeted in nine languages by the children.
“I was delighted to hear that the school, which I understand is the only one in the country to be named after Nelson Mandela was featured by Channel 5 television news the day after his death, and some of the pupils – children of the 21st Century – were filmed reciting quotes from Nelson Mandela, connecting them to a giant of the 20th Century.
“Thank you. Finally, before we continue with today’s business, I would like to invite Deputy Leader, Councillor Ian Ward, to make an announcement.”
Cllr Ian Ward, Deputy Leader of Birmingham City Council:
“Also on that visit in 1993, Nelson Mandela visited Handsworth Leisure Centre, again drawing huge crowds. And in a tangible tribute to a much-loved world leader, who fought for the freedom of his fellow man and at great personal cost to himself, we are delighted to announce today that we will rename Handsworth Leisure Centre, ‘The Nelson Mandela Health and Wellbeing Centre’.
“Our plan, which is yet to be worked up in detail, is to hold a formal renaming and celebration event at the Holly Road centre on 11 February next year, which will commemorate the date in 1990 when Nelson Mandela was released from prison after 27 years.”