We are back to Monaco, where the first-ever Laureus Awards Ceremony was held in 2000. The Guest of Honor was the iconic South African President Nelson Mandela. The great man made a speech that culminated in the creation of Laureus Sport for Good. Mandela said that the movement should use the power of sport to end violence, discrimination and disadvantage. He seriously believed that sport had the power to change the world for better. For first 4 years, Monaco kept hosting the Ceremony until Lisbon hosted it in 2004 and Estoril in 2005. Likewise, Barcelona did it twice in 2006 & 2007 before the stage shifted to Saint Petersburg in 2008. In 2009, the ceremony was cancelled because of the economic crisis. In 2010 & 2011, Abu Dhabi hosted these awards and then in 2012, it was London’s turn. In 2013, Rio de Janeiro hosted the ceremony before Kuala Lumpur in 2014. Shanghai hosted in 2015 and in 2016, the Ceremony was held in Berlin. 2017 is the 18th year and the Awards function is back to Monaco. Traditionally, Laureus honors the greatest sporting achievements of the year and the ceremony is always attended by celebrities from world of entertainment, fashion and business. The event has gained a huge popularity and it is broadcast live to over 160 countries and territories.
The annual Laureus World Sports Awards honors remarkable sports individuals and the greatest sporting achievements during the year. It was established in 1999 by Laureus Sport for Good Foundation with patronage from Daimler and Richemont. Mercedes-Benz and IWC Schaffhausen were the two major global partners. The first-ever ceremony was held in Monaco on 25 May 2000. Since its inception, seven categories of awardees are nominated. These are; Laureus World Sportsman of the Year; Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year; Laureus World Team of the Year; Laureus World Comeback of the Year; Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year; Laureus World Action Sportsperson of the Year and Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability.
Each category will have six nominees. While nominations for first five categories are decided by a Panel of professional sports editors, writers and broadcasters, organizers have a specialist panel for choosing the nominees for last two categories. The final winner in each category is elected by a secret ballot by members of Laureus World Sports Academy, which consists of 62 members. These are the world’s greatest retired sporting legends, who volunteer their time to support the work of the Foundation. They also vote each year to decide the winners of Laureus World Sports Awards. Incidentally, three of these members are distinguished Indian cricketers; Rahul Dravid, Kapil Dev and Sachin Tendulkar. The Academy has only two other members from cricket; Sir Ian Botham of England and Sir Viv Richards of the West Indies.
For 2017 Laureus Awards, two of the world’s biggest tennis stars have already been nominated. In the category of Laureus World Sportsman of the Year, Britain’s Andy Murray is one nominee but he faces tough competition from the iconic athlete Usain Bolt, already a three-time Laureus winner, 5000 & 10000 Olympic champion Mo Farah, Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo and basketball duo of Stephen Curry and LeBron James.
Argentine Juan Martin del Potro is in contention for Laureus Comeback of the Year Award. del Potro will also face stiff competition from celebrated US swimmer Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian in history, Spanish high jumper Ruth Beitia, British show jumper Nick Skelton, Mauritius triathlete Fabienne St Louis and Norwegian skier Aksel Lund Svindal. Because Laureus awards come soon after the Rio Games, Olympians have taken all six nominations for World Sportswoman of the Year Award. They are; Americans Simone Biles, Katie Ledecky and Allyson Felix, Germany’s current world no.1 women’s tennis player Angelique Kerber, Jamaican sprinter Elaine Thompson and British cyclist Laura Kenny.
For World Team of the Year, Mercedes Petronas are nominated in Formula-1 for third straight year but they will compete with three football teams; European Champions Portugal, Champions League winners Real Madrid and Olympic gold medal winners Brazil. Besides; American baseball team Chicago Cubs and NBA champions Cleveland Cavaliers in Basketball have also been shortlisted. For World Breakthrough of the Year Award, 2016 F-1 winner Nico Rosberg is nominated after finishing second in 2014 and 2015. With Rosberg are; Olympic world-record breaking athletes Almaz Ayana and Wayde van Niekerk, 2016 English Premier League Champions Leicester City, European Championship quarter-finalists Iceland and Olympic Rugby Sevens gold medal winners Fiji.
For World Sportsperson of the Year Award with a Disability, Rio Paralympic Games provide all six nominees. These are; swimmers Ihar Boki from Belarus and Sophie Pascoe from New Zealand visually-impaired Cuban sprinter Omara Durand, Iran weightlifter Siamand Rahman, Swiss wheelchair racer Marcel Hug and Italian fencer Beatrice Vio. Finally, nominations in World Action Sportsperson of the Year Award have been grabbed by men and women’s surfing world champions John John Florence and Tyler Wright; snowboarder Chloe Kim, skateboarder Pedro Barros, mountain biker Rachel Atherton and Estonia’s 13-year old freestyle skier Kelly Sildaru.
One can keep speculating about eventual winners before the names are revealed on the gala night of February 14 at Monaco. But for the first time ever, sports fans will have the chance to see their opinions respected in a brand-new Best Sporting Moment of the Year Award. As for the organizers, besides celebrating the greatest sporting successes of the year, they will pride themselves once again in following the late Nelson Mandela’s dictum of using the power of sport to end violence, discrimination and disadvantage. The Laureus Foundation has already done its bit by supporting more than 100 programs in about 40 countries and their work is championed by 62 distinguished members of Laureus World Sports Academy.