Nelson Mandela exhibition opens at Auckland's Eden Park

A glimpse into the life and legacy of anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela is on display in Auckland.

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Mandela My Life: The Official Exhibition is open from today at Eden Park. Source: 1 NEWS

Mandela My Life: The Official Exhibition opens today at Eden Park.

1 NEWS Tonight got a sneak peek at the exhibition, alongside a Kiwi couple with connections to the late South African activist.

To George Armstrong, Nelson Mandela is more than just a part of world history, he's part of his history.

In 1981, then in his late forties, the Anglican priest and others from St John's College carried a large cross out onto Hamilton's Rugby Park to protest the second Springboks Test.

"Eventually the police surrounded us. There was a thin line of them right around the whole of us 500. And at that time I got a bit sick of just standing there with the protesters," George Armstrong told 1 NEWS Tonight.

So he broke away and approached an officer.

"I asked him if I could borrow his loud hailer, and he was so surprised he was almost going to give it to me."

Soon after, George Armstrong was escorted off the field, and the game was cancelled.

For his wife Jocelyn, her memories of that era are summed up in a photograph, taken with Nelson Mandela in Parliament in 1995.

"There I spoke with him personally. He was a charming man. And yes, it was lovely to meet him, and you felt that he knew what you'd been doing and he was very gracious and thankful for that," Ms Armstrong said.

She helped shape democracy after Mandela became president.

"Twenty New Zealanders went across to be part of those elections. And when they came back I was with the African Information Centre in Wellington and we helped them organise a Nelson Mandela Trust. And that trust was to encourage New Zealanders to assist South Africa in its economic and social development," she said.

The events the Armstrongs talk about feature in the new multi-million dollar exhibition, as well as some never before seen items.

The  installation at Eden Park is just metres from where, 38 years ago, a plane dropped flour bombs onto the field during the third Test of the Springbok tour.

It's a link that's celebrated and remembered decades on.