LONDON and STUTTGART, GERMANY-- Rendezvous with history. Days of glory. Clash of the champions. 'The Oscar of sport'. Those and other superlatives fit the bill when the great, distinguished LAUREUS family of past and present sporting greats, patrons, Academy members, officials and ambassadors comes together from February 5 to 6 for the LAUREUS WORLD SPORTS AWARDS 2012 in London, the only global awards ceremony of this kind. When famous sporting legends meet the heroes of today. The awards are given to the sportswoman, the sportsman, the team, the breakthrough, the comeback, the disabled and the action sportsperson of the year.
The list of nominees reads like a 'Who is Who' of world sport. How about an extract? Messi, Nowitzki, Vettel, Djokovic, Bolt, Höfl-Riesch, Kvitova, Cheruiyot, Pistorius, Köster, FC Barcelona, Dallas Mavericks, All Blacks... -- to mention but a few of the candidates. The tension runs high. Who will be the top stars to be honoured? LAUREUS certainly brings an extra bit of glamour even to this metropolis, this Olympic city on the Thames, which is no stranger to VIPs.
However, red carpets, grand stages and glittering trophies are not what the day-to-day business of the LAUREUS SPORT FOR GOOD foundation is about. Away from the limelight, the flashlights and the glamorous show once a year, it rather focuses on those who, living at the other end of the spectrum of our society and thus of sport, are unable to participate in events such as this. Those who, without adequate support, would always be at a disadvantage: socially disadvantaged children and adolescents all over the world.
The Foundation has so far launched, established, supported and promoted 91 social projects all over the globe. According to the Foundation's figures, it was able to provide help to, and improve the quality of life of, over one and a half million young people: social change -- practiced, not just preached. Since the foundation was established in 1999 donations amounting to over 40 million euros were collected for this purpose and invested in the future of young people. All in accordance with the motto put forth by none other than Nelson Mandela at the launch of LAUREUS: "Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair." Those who follow world events and the history of sport at the same time, those who have experienced how sport bridges even, and in particular, those divisions politics sometimes creates, know: Mandela's words are anything but a shallow slogan -- they have depth. Meaning. And they have become LAUREUS's maxim. A kind of legacy.
Consequently, DAIMLER with its brand Mercedes-Benz and RICHEMONT with its brand IWC SCHAFFHAUSEN are aware of this social and economic responsibility. As founders of the LAUREUS SPORT FOR GOOD foundation, they are strongly committed to it. Since 2001 they have made a point, year after year, of not just venerating eminent sporting greats, but of using their appeal in many efficient ways in order to draw attention to the common cause.
A case in point is how Laureus is set up in Germany. The Board of Directors of the LAUREUS SPORT FOR GOOD foundation in Germany consists of Harald Schuff, Chairman of the Management Board, Mercedes-Benz Sales Organisation Germany, and Henrik Ekdahl, Richemont SA, General Manager IWC Northern Europe. In the German-speaking region, they share responsibilities with the two Academy members Boris Becker and Franz Klammer. Apart from the LAUREUS ambassadors, the German Board of Trustees also includes Henning Kley, Managing Director, Deutsche StiftungsTrust GmbH and Prof. Dr. Walter Tokarski, Rector, German Sport University Cologne. Dr. Joachim Schmidt, board member of Mercedes Benz Cars responsible for sales and marketing confirms just how effective the partnership has been for the Laureus projects.
"Viewed within the context of our global sponsorship programmes, Laureus has assumed a central role. In corporate social responsibility (CSR) terms it has become our largest and most important programme since being launched thirteen years ago.
"The Laureus Sport for Good Foundation is for us the platform via which both national and international projects can be conceived and carried out. The foundation is currently involved in over 90 projects worldwide helping socially disadvantaged children. Since being founded in 1999 we have been able to generate around forty million Euros (52.7 million USD) in sponsorship and thereby improve the lives of over 1.5 Million children and teenagers worldwide."
A total of 47 of sport's top stars are working for the Academy, as well as jury members and over 100 ambassadors, in order to support the projects locally, most frequently in disadvantaged areas, and not only to bring glamour to them but to actively lend a hand in making use of the charitable power of sport -- and in Germany and Austria, too, where the Foundation has been working since 2001 and currently runs nine sports projects. In doing so, they know no insurmountable obstacles, only challenges: Be it juvenile delinquency, drugs, gangs, HIV/AIDS, discrimination, social exclusion, landmines or health problems such as obesity -- LAUREUS goes where, sadly, others often look away. Edwin Moses, double Olympic gold medallist and Chairman of the Academy, explains, "We are aiming to enrich the lives of children by encouraging them to take part in physical education and sport."
Annie Tagoe, who today is 18 years old, presents an example of the educational power of the Foundation and its projects. The young Briton was suspended from school 32 times before she discovered athletics at LAUREUS Track Academy -- and was discovered herself. Thanks to comprehensive support, her performance in school then improved noticeably: "Before I started training, my behaviour wasn't the best at school. I would get in trouble all the time and wouldn't take my education seriously. Now I have a tutor to teach me three times a week. I'm so thankful for that."
Annie Tagoe has also reached an international level in sport: She won fourth place in the individual 100 metres sprint at the Youth Olympics in Singapore and a bronze medal with the relay team. A story written by life. A development that, perhaps, can only be made possible by the LAUREUS SPORT FOR GOOD foundation. In the light of success stories such as this, the Foundation may be allowed, once a year, to celebrate itself as well as the nominated athletes. And in 2012, on top of that, in the Olympic city of London.