Sporting legends celebrate 20 years of Laureus World Sports Awards

By Sports Reporter Time of article published May 25, 2020

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LONDON – “Sport has the power to change the world.”

These were the iconic words spoken by former South African president Nelson Mandela at the inaugural Laureus World Sports Awards on this day 20 years ago.

The speech, which was given by Madiba, standing alongside 24 of the world’s greatest living sports legends, is regarded as some of the most powerful in sporting history.

“Sport has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope, where once there was only despair. It is mor powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination,” Mandela continued.

Former All Blacks captain Sean Fitzpatrick, who was in attendance, and is today the chairman of Laureus World Sporrs Academy, recalled the evening where Mandela made the now iconic speech.

Former South African president Nelson Mandela speaks at the inaugural Laureus World Sports Awards in Monaco 20 years ago.

“I can vividly remember the evening of 25 May, 2000. Standing on stage at the very first Laureus Awards in Monaco and on walks the great man Nelson Mandela. His words that evening transcended sport.

“At the end of his speech, he announced the formation of the Laureus World Sports Academy and challenged us to use our platform and everything we learnt through sport to make a positive impact on young people around the world.

“As we enter out third decade, the role sport can play in society is as powerful as ever, and as an organisation, we are committed to continuing to live out Mandela’s legacy for the next twenty years and beyond,” said Fitzpatrick.

Also in attendance that day in Monaco was 23-time Grand Slam and five-time Laureus Award winner Serena Williams, and she spoke about meeting the great statesman for the first time.

“Being there in the crowd when Nelson Mandela was addressing us was a really great experience. The words he said about sport, it doesn’t matter what colour you are, you can still be the best,” said Williams.

“What struck me most about Mr Mandela was the fact that he knew everything about me, and I’m thinking ‘no, I know everyting about you!’ We just had an incredible conversation about things we wanted to do in the world, and it was a real changing point in my life.”

Nelson meets Bono at the Laureus Sports Awards. Photo. Richard Young
Nelson meets Bono at the Laureus Sports Awards. Photo. Richard Young

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