TORONTO — Exhausted by a triumphant but hectic North American tour, Nelson Mandela became weak and left a Friday luncheon early. On the advice of his doctor, he also canceled a news conference and cut short a state dinner.
At the luncheon with business executives, the 80-year-old Mandela needed assistance returning to his seat after speaking, and then he left the room early after repeatedly wiping his brow.
Aides later announced that the South African president would not appear as scheduled at an afternoon news conference. Later, he attended a dinner in his honor hosted by Prime Minister Jean Chretien.
Mandela appeared to be in good spirits and joked with reporters who questioned him about his health, saying he was ready to challenge them to push-ups.
"I do not know what I have done as an individual to merit this," Mandela said of the reception he received from 500 dignitaries.
The dinner program was shortened to accommodate Mandela, who gave a five-minute speech and then left for South Africa.
"He has been examined by his physician," said Mandela's chief of staff, Jakes Gerwel. "There's nothing wrong with him, but he is very exhausted."
During the morning, Mandela appeared to be full of life, at times dancing during an appearance before a throng of schoolchildren at the SkyDome stadium.