Long lines for tickets to Muhammad Ali's memorial service

Boxer Muhammad Ali will be laid to rest at Louisville's historic Cave Hill Cemetery.
People wait in a long line for free tickets to the memorial service for late boxer Muhammad Ali.
People wait in a long line for free tickets to the memorial service for late boxer Muhammad Ali.PHOTO: EPA

LOUISVILLE (AFP) - People formed long lines on Wednesday for a chance to get tickets to the memorial service honouring Louisville's most famous native son, boxing and civil rights legend Muhammad Ali.

By 7am the line snaked around the KFC Yum! Centre, the large sports arena where the ceremony will be held on Friday.

Ali, whose remarkable boxing career and civil rights activism made him one of the most indelible figures of the 20th century, died last week at age 74 after a decades-long battle with Parkinson's disease.

Louisville, the largest city in the southern state of Kentucky and home to 600,000 people, will play host on Thursday and Friday to a mass public celebration of Ali's life.

"This is part of our history and I feel like Muhammad Ali has an awesome legacy," said 23- year-old waitress Andeja Tyler, who stood in line waiting for tickets.

"I just want to be part of it," she said.

Ten ticket booths have been set up to hand out four free tickets per person.

Some people spent the night in line on camping chairs and wrapped in blankets to make sure they got tickets.

"Muhammad Ali was such an amazing person, not only as an athlete but really a humanitarian. He was the people's champion and we, being from Louisville, feel like family to him," said Jessica Moore, the local county's assistant district attorney.

The Louisville ceremonies will have three key moments: an Islamic prayer service open to all on Thursday, and long public funeral procession through the city on Friday followed by the memorial service at the KFC Yum! Centre.

Former US president Bill Clinton and comedian Billy Crystal are among high-profile speakers scheduled to deliver eulogies. A crowd of 15,000 people is expected at the sports arena.

President Barack Obama however will be absent, remaining in Washington for the high school graduation ceremony of his eldest daughter, Malia.