Prince Albert & Princess Charlene gave the royal touch
The very first Laureus World Sports Awards was held in the glamorous Principality of Monaco where golf legend Tiger Woods was named Sportsman of the Year, and cyclist Lance Armstrong was given the Comeback award that was later revoked by the relevant sport governing body, but that is now water under the bridge. Seventeen years later this philanthropic sportive event returned to Monte-Carlo, on Tuesday, February 14, 2017 to coincide with Saint Valentine’s. It was a dazzling evening where the greatest sportsmen and women of 2016 were recognised.
The premier global sports awards took place in the presence of HSH Prince Albert and HSH Princess Charlene who gave it the royal touch. The Master of Ceremonies was no other than heartthrob English actor Hugh Grant.
The Awards kicked off by Brazilian football legend Cafu who honored the victims of the Chapecoense plane crash last year by wearing the club’s shirt to the press conference. During the Awards Ceremony, the audience participated in a rendition of the famous Icelandic thunderclap, but it was a golden sporting selfie that stole the show. Taken by Sportsman of the Year Usain Bolt, the image included every winner from the ceremony, and became the iconic image of the event as it circulated on social media channels around the world.
Black tie dress code but wearing sneakers for a good cause
Bolt showed his support for the #SneakersforGood campaign by announcing that he will auction off his black and white sneakers worn at the event, raising funds for Laureus Sport for Good and Sal’s shoes, who collect pairs of shoes and distribute them to those in need around the world. As well as Bolt, Nico Rosberg, Simone Biles, Michael Phelps and other prestigious guests like Boris Becker got involved and laced up their sneakers. Laureus Academy Member Michael Johnson wore one bright red and one navy blue sneaker, which are set to be auctioned, Michael Johnson explained: “This is an incredible movement, taking the shoes we are wearing with our tuxedos and helping young people.”
Hugh Grant as the perfect MC to introduce the winners
Host Hugh Grant entertained everybody with his wit, ensuring the audience were welcomed in traditionally inimitable fashion, while world famous singer and former member of Boyzone, Ronan Keating, entertained the audience with a performance of “Let me love you”. Grant had been preceded by a host of celebrated personalities like Bill Murray, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey and even Nelson Mandela.
Usain Bolt and Simone Biles were named Laureus Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year, following their outstanding performances in 2016. They are the little and large of sport – Usain stands 1.95 metres, while Simone measures just 1.45 metres – but they were both giants at the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games, and enjoyed an ecstatic welcome as they received their Statuettes at the Laureus World Sports Awards Ceremony in Monaco today. Bolt joins sporting greats Roger Federer, Serena Williams and Kelly Slater as four-time Laureus Award winner.
Laureus World Sports Academy Member Emerson Fittipaldi awarded World Breakthrough of the Year Award to F1 champion Nico Rosberg, who recalled his childhood living in Monaco and watching his father, who won the championship 34 years ago. Clutching the Laureus Statuette, he had a message of resilience for young people around the world: “If you keep believing and keep fighting, eventually you will be rewarded.” He added: “I remember I was 14 years old standing on the balcony with the TV on watching the Awards, and seeing Nelson Mandela on TV standing on this stage, and ever since, it’s been my dream to stand up here, myself, one day.”
The Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games produced three more Laureus winners: Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all-time, won Comeback of the Year after he returned to swimming and scooped five more gold medals; Italy’s Beatrice Vio, the only quadruple amputee in international wheelchair fencing, won the Disability Award, and the Refugee Olympic Team won the Laureus Sport for Good Award for Sporting Inspiration.
Wearing a traditional Scottish kilt, formula F1 driver David Coulthard spoke with members of the Refugee Olympic Team who competed at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games while Chef de Mission and Laureus Academy Member Tegla Loroupe explained how much still needs to be done to help those in disadvantaged situations.
The prestigious Laureus Sport for Good Award, won by an organization or individual who, in the opinion of the members of the Laureus World Sports Academy, has used the power of sport to overcome violence, discrimination or disadvantage, went to Waves for Change. The South African based project uses the sport of surfing project for vulnerable young adults growing up in South Africa’s most violent communities. HSH Princess Charlene of Monaco cited her South African compatriot, Laureus Patron Nelson Mandela, when she presented the award, saying: “Sport has given me purpose and Waves for Change share the same values as my Foundation, teaching children to swim and giving them motivation.” (In the photo Princess Charlene speaks during the presentation of the Laureus Sport For Good award from Waves For Change @Tim Conibear)
There were two Awards for British sport: the world’s greatest downhill mountain biker Rachel Atherton won the Action Sportsperson of the Year, while Leicester City won a special Laureus Spirit of Sport Award to mark their remarkable achievement in winning English football’s Premier League as 5,000-1 outsiders. Another historic team performance was Chicago Cubs’ first Major League Baseball World Series victory for 108 years. This feat won them the Laureus Team of the Year Award.
For the first time ever, sports fans around the world voted for the new Best Sporting Moment of the Year Award, which brings to life the true power and magic of sport, looked beyond the headlines and captured the fair play, emotion and sportsmanship of sport in 2016. It was presented to the Barcelona Under-12 Team for the humanity and warmth they showed in consoling a Japanese team who they had beaten.
Over and above the winners, there were dozens of renowned athletes gathering under one roof: Michael Johnson, Wayde Van Niekerk, Sergei Bubka, Renaud Lavillenie, Stephane Diagana, football players Ruud Gullit, Cafu, Luis Figo, Andrei Shevchenko, Fabio Capello, Claudio Ranieri, tennis men Boris Becker, Illie Nastase, racecar drivers David Coulthard, Mika Hakkinen,, golfer Gary Player, rugby man Sean Fitzpatrick, cyclist Fabian Cancellera, kayak specialist Tony Estanguet, boxer Marvin Hagler, skater Katarina Witt or gymnast Nadia Comaneci.
The Awards Ceremony culminated with Prince Albert and Princess Charlene joining all the winners doing the Lightning Bolt with Olympic Champion Usain Bolt. It was followed by a gourmet dinner, and Nusret Gökçe, the internet sensation otherwise known as Salt Bae, made sure that the food was perfectly seasoned!
It was a plethora of sporting success on one evening under one roof, which both celebrated the achievements of athletes in 2016, as well as the power of sport and its ability to overcome discrimination and disadvantage around the world.
“You can’t put a limit on anything. The more you dream, the farther you get.” Michael Phelps