US President Barack Obama will not be able to attend the memorial services of boxing legend Muhammad Ali, as it would coincide with his daughter Malia's graduation ceremony. Instead, senior adviser Valerie Jarrett – who knew Ali personally – will represent the president's family and read a eulogy by Obama in memory of the legendary sportsman.
Ali's funeral is set to take place at his hometown in Louisville, Kentucky, on Friday (10 June). He died on 3 June at a hospital in Phoenix, Arizona after battling respiratory problems.
The president and First Lady Michelle Obama will be in Washington on Friday to attend their eldest daughter Malia's high school graduation, the White House said in a statement, Telegraph reported. Spokesman for Ali's family, Bob Gunnell said that the president had a telephone conversation with Lonnie, Ali's widow, who appreciated his "kind words and condolences".
Gunnell also confirmed that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and King Abdullah of Jordan are expected to attend the service. Former US president Bill Clinton and comedian Billy Crystal will deliver eulogies at the KFC Yum! Centre in Louiseville on Friday afternoon.
Besides, former British heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis, who has also won the world heavyweight title thrice just like Ali, will be among the pall-bearers along with actor Will Smith, who played the boxer in a 2001 biographical film.
The event will have three key services including a prayer service that will be open to the public on Thursday (9 June), a funeral procession which will move through the city on Friday (10 June), followed by the funeral at a sports arena where Ali fought his last match.
Two of the late boxer's daughters Rasheda and Maryum and an Islamic studies scholar Timothy Gianotti will speak at the service. Gunnell also announced that, in honour of Ali, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin will have the Commonwealth flag lowered at half mast on Friday.