The judging panel, which chose the laureate for 2020, represents all five continents and includes: world renowned Japanese film director Naomi Kawase for Asia, eminent scientist and the 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.
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 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. This year too, the recipient will be honoured during the Opening Ceremony of Tokyo 2020 on 23 July 2021.
IOC President Thomas Bach said: “With the Olympic Laurel we take forward the vision of Baron Pierre de Coubertin, 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.”
Jury member Naomi 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.”
Initiated at 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 is 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.