Muhammad Ali is being honored and buried today with more pomp and circumstance than his hometown has seen in recent memory. Updated 2:55 p.m.
The funeral procession for the prize fighter and globally famous humanitarian started at 9 a.m. The roughly 17-car motorcade, including a hearse carrying his body, passed places significant in his life, including his boyhood home in the West End, down the boulevard named for him, and the Muhammad Ali Center he opened in 2005, according to The Courier-Journal.
Amid heightened security, the procession was expected to take more than 90 minutes and include rolling street closures by police. It will end with a private burial in an undisclosed location at Cave Hill Cemetery in the Highlands, which will be closed to the public. Pallbearers are to include actor Will Smith, who portrayed Ali in the 2001 film of the same name, and boxer Mike Tyson.
Today’s events will culminate in a 2 p.m. memorial service at the KFC Yum Center before an estimated 15,000 people. President Clinton, the comedian Billy Crystal, and other luminaries will deliver eulogies. King Abdullah II of Jordan also was to be there.
But another prominent guest, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, cut his visit short and did not plan to attend today’s memorial service amid reports of a rift with the organizers, according to Britain’s Daily Mail. He attended a Muslim prayer ceremony for Ali yesterday, but left the city after his slot was cut from the speakers’ programs because of time constraints. Erdoğan came to Louisville because he was said to have admired Ali, as a committed Muslim and civil rights campaigner.
Security was to be extensive for perhaps hundreds of thousands of mourners along the procession route, and to protect the visiting world leaders. An estimated 500 Louisville police officers were to line the route and secure other locations. The Secret Service will be present as well.
The Ali Center planned to stream the Yum center memorial service from its website; details. Local TV stations are broadcasting live, as was CNN and The New York Times. The Today show‘s Matt Lauer led reporting from the city. The CJ is providing fresh updates. And Twitter is awash in Tweets, where actor Smith is now trending.
Ali and his inner circle planned this week’s services in secrecy during the years he battled Parkinson’s disease. He died last week in Phoenix, his primary home, at 74.