On this day 20 years ago, one of the most powerful speeches in sporting history was spoken on stage at the inaugural Laureus World Sports Awards. Standing alongside 24 of the world’s greatest living sporting legends, Laureus’ First Patron Nelson Mandela said: “Sport has the power to change the world.”
Mandela continued: “It 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 more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination.”
One of those on stage that evening was All Blacks legend Sean Fitzpatrick. Today, Sean is Chairman of the Laureus World Sports Academy and over the past 20 years he has watched Mandela’s words being put into action through the work Laureus Sport for Good supports around the world.
Sean Fitzpatrick said: “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 our 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.”
Five-time Laureus Award winner Serena Williams, who met Mandela at the inaugural Laureus World Sports Awards, said: “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. What struck me most about Mr Mandela was the fact that he knew everything about me, and I’m thinking ‘no, I know everything 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.”
Four-time Laureus World Sportsman of the Year Novak Dokovic, said: “Nelson Mandela is one of those people that always brought the light. His strength to come out and fight for what is right is something that motivates and obviously inspires myself and every person on this planet.”
Tennis legend and Laureus Academy Member Boris Becker, said: “At the Laureus World Sports Awards 2000 in Monaco and a holiday in South Africa in 2007, I had the honour to meet Nelson Mandela. To shake hands with him was for me a very special moment. For us Laureus Academy Members it is an honour that a personality as he stood behind the idea of Laureus and supported us as Patron.”
While Laureus’ 20th anniversary falls in the midst of the global Covid-19 pandemic, the need for the programmes Laureus supports is stronger than ever. Earlier this month, along with partners, Laureus Sport for Good launched the Sport for Good Response Fund to support organisations using sport to change the lives of young people around the world. The fund calls on the sport for development sector to unite in their efforts to support vulnerable children and young people who risk being left behind as the world reels from this unprecedented crisis.
Laureus Academy Member and Chairman of Laureus Sport for Good Edwin Moses, said: “We are living in uncertain and unprecedented times, and while we had hoped to be celebrating the growth of Laureus Sport for Good over the past two decades, we have instead shifted our focus. Through the Sport for Good Response Fund, we are continuing to support our programmes during this crisis, making sure they are ready to use respond to the challenges in their communities once it is safe to do so.
“I’m sure if the great Nelson Mandela was here today, he would be proud of what we have achieved so far. I also know that he would encourage us to continue to work hard, continue giving back and using sport to change even more lives in future. And that’s exactly what we aim to do.”
Today, on May 25, Laureus is coordinating a global campaign to mark these inspirational words of Mandela, celebrate the influential people who have supported Laureus throughout the years and shine a light on the transformative work that has been done over the last 20 years.
Over the last 20 years, Laureus Sport for Good has raised more than €150m for the Sport for Development sector, reaching and helping change the lives of almost 6 million children and young people since 2000. Laureus Sport for Good currently supports more than 200 programmes in over 40 countries that use the power of sport to transform lives.
The Laureus World Sports Awards is the premier global sporting awards. First held in 2000, the annual event honours the greatest and most inspirational sporting triumphs of the year and showcases the work of Laureus Sport for Good. Since 2000, the Laureus World Sports Awards has been held in Monaco, Lisbon, Estoril, Barcelona, St Petersburg, Abu Dhabi, London, Rio de Janeiro, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai and Berlin.
Laureus was founded in 2000 by Founding Patrons Richemont and Daimler and is currently supported by Global Partners Mercedes-Benz, IWC and MUFG.