Professor Muhammad Yunus, who is often referred to as the “world’s banker to the poor”, receives the Olympic Laurel award for his extensive work in sport for development, including founding the Yunus Sports Hub, a global social business network that creates solutions through sport. He has collaborated with the IOC on several projects, including educational elements of the IOC Young Leaders Programme, the “Imagine” Peace Youth Camp and the Athlete365 Business Accelerator – the first comprehensive entrepreneurship programme to help Olympians with career transition.
IOC President Thomas Bach said: “With the Olympic Laurel, we take forward the vision of Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder and reviver of the modern Olympic Games. It is also a reflection of the ideals and values of the ancient Olympic Games, with a focus on human development through peace and sport.”
He continued: “The work of Professor Yunus is exemplary for these ideals and values. He shares his wealth of knowledge generously with the athletes and the Olympic community. He is a great inspiration for all of us. He helps athletes in their post-sport career development to become socially responsible entrepreneurs and shares our vision of how sport can contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. In particular, with Paris 2024, he is helping to build a new model for the Olympic Games with minimum impact for the planet and maximum impact for legacy for the people of the host country. We are very thankful for all he is doing for the Olympic community.”
Professor Yunus said: “The Olympic Games and sport have the most convening power in the world. The Olympic Games unite the entire world in peaceful competition, celebrating unity in diversity. North and South Korean athletes marching together in the Parade of Nations at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 was a powerful reminder of the immense potential of peace through sport. The Olympic Truce takes forward the vision of building a better world based on fair competition, peace, humanity and reconciliation.
“We can use this power to change the world in the most effective ways. Sport has the power to transform lives by galvanising the world, and social business can be the most efficient tool to unleash this power.
“Sport is natural to all human beings. It brings all human strengths and emotions into play, irrespective of differences. That gives it enormous power. I urge that we channel this power for achieving social goals and peace.”
The Olympic Laurel recipient for 2020 was selected by a distinguished judging panel representing all five continents: world-renowned Japanese film director Naomi Kawase for Asia; eminent scientist and then-Governor General of Canada Julie Payette for the Americas; Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka of South Africa, for Africa; Secretary General of the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat and Papua New Guinean politician Dame Meg Taylor for Oceania; IOC Honorary President Jacques Rogge for Europe; and IOC President Thomas Bach, who presided over the jury.
Jury member Kawase said: “The Olympic Laurel is conferred upon outstanding individuals who help build a better world, using the power of sport to harness change and positivity. You will see that this year’s recipient is internationally recognised for relentless work in the empowerment and upliftment of disadvantaged sections of society.”
Born in 1940 in the seaport city of Chittagong, Professor Yunus studied at Dhaka University in Bangladesh, then received a Fulbright scholarship to study economics at Vanderbilt University. He received his PhD in economics in 1969 and joined Middle Tennessee State University, where he taught until he returned to Bangladesh in 1972.
Professor Yunus is the recipient of numerous international awards for his ideas and endeavours and is a member of the board of the United Nations Foundation. In 2006, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for founding Grameen Bank, which pioneered the concepts of microcredit and microfinance for people living in poverty.
The first ever Olympic Laurel was awarded to the Kenyan Olympian and social changemaker Kip Keino on 5 August 2016, during the Opening Ceremony of the Games of the XXXI Olympiad in Rio de Janeiro.
Initiated for Rio 2016, the Olympic Laurel is to be awarded at the opening ceremony of each summer edition of the Olympic Games. Symbolising the connection with the ancient Olympic Games, the base of the trophy is a replica of a stone from the site of Olympia, Greece. The creation of the Olympic Laurel was one of the initiatives that emerged from recommendation 26 of Olympic Agenda 2020, the strategic roadmap for the future of the Olympic Movement, to further strengthen the blending of sport and culture.
The International Olympic Committee is a not-for-profit, civil, non-governmental, international organisation made up of volunteers which is committed to building a better world through sport. It redistributes more than 90 per cent of its income to the wider sporting movement, which means that every day the equivalent of USD 3.4 million goes to help athletes and sports organisations at all levels around the world.
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