At the time the Mandela name carried the status of a myth. Nobody had seen him since the 1960s, and the British taboo on creating memorials to living politicians hardly seemed applicable. Yet here he is.
Mr Mandela's state visit, however, is simply likely to enhance his position as a secular saint, a living symbol of South Africa's redemption from apartheid, after whom it is entirely appropriate to dignify muncipal and educational facilities.
But there is an irony here: in South Africa the predicted rush to attach his name to every avenue and airport formerly entitled after the heroes of white supremacy has not materialised.
Mr Mandela has shown admirable reluctance to allow this - unlike neighbouring Zimbabwe, for example, where the main street of every city and town in the country is now named after President Robert Mugabe.Reuse content