NEW YORK -- There will be traffic jams and ticker tape, jazz at Yankee Stadium and jousting with Ted Koppel, commemorative coins and bronze busts and a bulletproof limousine.
There will be Jewish supporters and Jewish protesters, black accolades and black infighting, Eddie Murphy and Robert DeNiro and a $2,500-a-person bash in Greenwich Village.
In short, Nelson Mandela will find himself in the center of New York's political maelstrom when the South African black leader arrives here Wednesday to begin a 12-day U.S. visit.
Perhaps inevitably, the first U.S. appearance of the world's leading foe of apartheid has combined the hoopla of a rock-concert tour, the glitz of political fund-raising and the trappings of an official state visit. Mandela, 71, who was freed in February after 27 years in prison, is simply the hottest ticket in a town where the movers and shakers are accustomed to demanding front row seats.
Besieged by those who feel excluded, organizers have added a motorcade through Harlem, a meeting with black journalists, a session with South African exiles and a stop at a Bedford-Stuyvesant high school to such mega-events as the ticker-tape parade along lower Broadway. Still, the leader of the African National Congress (ANC) has not been spared the griping and sniping that defines New York politics.
"Nelson Mandela didn't break rocks on Robben Island for 27 years to be turned into a commodity in the United States," said Jim Cason, spokesman for the American Committee on Africa, one of the city's oldest anti-apartheid groups. "He's only one man.
"This is a trip both to thank Americans who have been supportive of the South African cause, to raise funds for the ANC and to push the case for sanctions. There's no way you can do all that and not offend some people. Eighty percent of this is saying 'no' to people."
With anti-apartheid activists jockeying for position and Brooklyn leaders complaining that the borough with the largest black population is being slighted, there is no shortage of grumbling.
"People are trying to enhance their own status by identifying with Nelson Mandela," said Samori Marksman, a black activist with the African and Caribbean Resource Center. "We question the motives of many of the people who have surfaced as organizers . . . including people who were totally hostile to the African National Congress."
Marksman called Mandela's New York schedule "awful" and "insensitive," saying: "A ticker-tape parade through the heart of Wall Street is an abomination, as opposed to a parade through Harlem and the South Bronx. It's almost cynical."
At the grass-roots level, it is harder to gauge the level of enthusiasm for a man who disappeared from public view in 1962. Andrew Cooper, publisher of the City Sun, a Brooklyn-based weekly, said many blacks here are more interested in the Bensonhurst racial-murder trials than in seeing Mandela.
"I don't think the visit really is for ordinary people," Cooper said. "I think it's more media hype. He is kind of a remote figure, symbolic but nevertheless remote. I hope I'm proven wrong. I hope the streets will be filled with excited people because he deserves that kind of tribute."
Reactions were mixed outside the Harlem State Office Building on 125th Street, where Mandela will attend a tree-planting ceremony Thursday.
Valerie Williams, 24, who works for the state Division of Human Rights, said she learned about Mandela from a television special starring Danny Glover. "All that time he lost, just so he could get freedom for his people," she said.
But asked whether she would go to Yankee Stadium to see Mandela, Williams said: "I won't be there. I hate the Bronx."
Anita Tripp, 29, another state employee, was less enthused. "I don't even know who he is or what he stands for," she said. "I never heard of him until he was released. I don't even know exactly where he comes from."
But a 43-year-old freelance photographer who declined to give his name declared: "It's going to be a great day. The black folks in the community will get a chance to see a living legend. It's inspiration. It's hope. It goes to show you really can buck the system."
Many South African exiles view the visit in personal terms. "It will be our first chance to see him and meet with him and hopefully even shake his hand," said Senti Thobejane, 26, an ANC activist and research assistant at the City University of New York. "I had never actually thought of it happening so soon and so real, but it's something that every one of us has fought for."
In New York's large Jewish community, admiration for Mandela is tempered by concern over his past embrace of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat. Although the leaders of U.S. Jewish organizations said after meeting with Mandela in Geneva that they were satisfied with his views on Israel, some hard-line activists say they will picket Mandela's visit unless he publicly denounces terrorism against the Jewish state. They also question whether some of the Palestinians invited to official ceremonies are PLO supporters.
Henry Siegman, executive director of the American Jewish Congress, said Mandela "is not coming here as a champion of any particular position on the Middle East. He is coming here as a champion against apartheid and deserves the support of all American Jews.
"I understand people who would like to see moral giants like Mandela speak on the subject of terrorism. But to use that as a litmus test . . . is deeply misguided."
Mayor David N. Dinkins (D), who has called Mandela "a real king-size hero," angered some Jewish activists by urging them not to demonstrate against Mandela. Dinkins said such protests would be "sad and unfortunate and tactically very, very unwise" because some blacks might take "great umbrage."
But City Councilman Noach Dear, an Orthodox Jew, criticized what he called "self-appointed Jewish leaders who sell themselves for a headline. . . . You have the mayor telling Jews not to demonstrate, not to speak out. If not for demonstrating and speaking out, Mr. Dinkins wouldn't be where he is now, and Mr. Mandela wouldn't be in New York celebrating freedom." Dear canceled his plans to protest after meeting with Dinkins Friday.
The Rev. Al Sharpton, meanwhile, demanded that Mandela meet with the family of Yusuf Hawkins, the black teenager killed by a white mob in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn. "Mandela ought to be careful he does not come to America and identify with those we feel have been a symbol of American apartheid," he said.
Yet another ethnic group was drawn into the fray with the disclosure that three Puerto Rican nationalists who shot up the House of Representatives in 1954 would share a platform with Mandela at the Harlem rally. A fourth nationalist, convicted of attempting to assassinate President Harry S. Truman, was invited but is too ill to attend. An organizer called the invitations a "gesture of solidarity."
Jim Bell, a union official who heads the local welcoming committee, said the visit should buttress the case for continuing U.S. sanctions against Pretoria. "We have to keep the pressure on until the pillars of apartheid come down," Bell said. "For me as an African-American, to be in a position to help my brothers and sisters, to make the connection to the motherland, is very dear to me."
The highlight of Mandela's three-day New York visit will probably come Wednesday, when he is honored with a parade similar to those given for Gen. Douglas McArthur (1951), then-astronaut John Glenn (1962), the freed Americans who had been hostages in Iran (1981), Vietnam veterans (1985) and the New York Mets (1986). More than 500 sanitation workers will be assigned to clean up hundreds of tons of debris along the route, which will take Mandela from Bowling Green to a ceremony at City Hall.
On Thursday, Mandela will join 4,000 religious leaders for an interfaith service at Riverside Church in Manhattan. He will tape a two-hour "town meeting" at City College, anchored by ABC's Ted Koppel. After a motorcade through Harlem, Mandela will speak at an evening concert at Yankee Stadium, the first such event there since Pope John Paul II's appearance in 1979.
Organizers are trying to sell 50,000 tickets -- prices range from $5 to $25 -- but sales were delayed until Thursday, when the city agreed to Yankees owner George Steinbrenner's demand that he be compensated for any damage to the field.
Bill Graham, a rock promoter whose name is usually associated with groups such as the Grateful Dead, is putting together the concert. "The music will be ethnic music relating back to the mother continent -- gospel, jazz, rap, Latino, music derived from African percussion," he said.
Graham said he hoped to avoid what has been dubbed "the malling of Mandela -- Mandela mugs and so on. There will be a commemorative T-shirt and that's about it, although I'm sure there will be some bootleggers outside with shoelaces and whatnot."
On Friday, Mandela is to meet with business leaders, address the U.N. General Assembly and hold a news conference. He will also drop by two ANC fund-raisers. One is at the East Side town house of Arthur and Mathilde Krim, where guests will pay $1,000 to $5,000, and the other at the Tribeca Film Center, where the stars will include filmmaker Spike Lee and actors Murphy and DeNiro.
Mandela's wife, Winnie, will join an anti-apartheid forum Friday at a Bedford-Stuyvesant church and be honored with a concert at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. One-third of the tickets, priced at $15 to $50, have been sold so far.
Special correspondent Laurie Goodstein contributed to this report.