Since its birth in 2001, Laureus has raised over €40 million for projects that have helped improve the lives of more than 1.5 million young people.
Now, the first ever Laureus Sport for Good Global Summit comes to London with Academy Members such as:
NFL superstar Marcus Allen
Winner of six tennis Grand Slams Boris Becker
England football icon Bobby Charlton
Indian cricket hero Kapil Dev
Five-time Olympic gold medallist Michael Johnson
Downhill skiing champion Franz Klammer
Multiple Olympic gold medal swimmer Mark Spitz
The laurel crown is an enduring symbol of honour, of respect, of recognition for great achievements. From victors in ancient Rome to today’s Olympic champions, the wreath of laurels has—with simple understatement—crowned the exceptional.
How appropriate, then, that Laureus is now the name behind a unique movement that unites the best in sporting achievement.
The names of the Laureus Academy resonate worldwide, both within and beyond their own fields of achievement. They represent sports as diverse as the Olympics themselves: Many, indeed, are Olympic champions several times over.
Ed Moses, Sebastian Coe, Steve Redgrave, Mark Spitz, Michael Johnson, Franz Klammer, Emerson Fittipaldi, Boris Becker, Kapil Dev, Bobby Charlton, Nadia Comaneci, Kip Keino, Tanni Grey-Thompson and Ian Botham are just a few of almost 50 inspiring sportsmen and women who have, between them, enough laurels to fill London 2012’s gleaming new Olympic arena.
And this week, many of those same champions will see London’s sporting centrepiece for themselves when they converge on the Capital for the first-ever Laureus Sport for Good Summit.
This major three-day Summit is bringing together representatives from many of the 89 sports-based projects supported by Laureus, from across 32 countries, to discuss How we can use sport to tackle youth violence and other problems in society today.
The event also, of course, represents a timely coming together of two great missions: of Laureus and of the 2012 Olympics.
The Chairman of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG), multiple Olympic medalist Sebastian Coe, is a member of the Laureus Academy. So, no surprise, perhaps, that his declared mission for 2012 was to “stage inspirational Olympic Games and Paralympic Games that capture the imagination of young people around the world and leave a lasting legacy.”
Laureus, too, was founded with the simple yet visionary aim of harnessing the power of sport to break down barriers and inspire positive change for children around the world.
This ambitious, apolitical and imaginative mission has, in turn, attracted ambassadors who not only support it but are prepared to make a practical contribution to it.
Academy members regularly visit Laureus projects so that young people have the chance to come face to face with their sporting heroes. Some will do just that in London this week.
The hands-on activities of the Academy’s members during their time in London will be the subject of a follow-up feature. Meanwhile, be inspired by how sport, combined with a little imagination, creativity and hard work, is changing the lives of thousands of young people around the world.
Street League, which operates in London, Glasgow and Newcastle, aims to engage individuals who are at risk of social exclusion in a structured program designed to improve physical fitness, develop life skills and qualifications and help the participants give themselves a better chance of employment and independent living.
The scheme works in partnership with around 70 organisations to support around 2,300 people a year and it’s estimated that, in 2008, 60 percent of the people who took part found jobs or started on training courses.
Laureus supports a particular Street League project that works with young women from a range of backgrounds, including homelessness, drug and alcohol abuse, unemployment, crime, learning difficulties and mental health, and aims to build essential qualifications and skills to create better employment opportunities.
The project provides street sports in the form of structured football and aerobic fitness programmes, including weekly training sessions and a year-round competitive football league.
It also offers an educational programme called Directions 2 Work that uses the theme of sport to help individuals through personal development courses such as CV writing and interview skills.
Participants even have the opportunity to gain qualifications in FA Level 1 and 2 Coaching, and the Community Sports Leadership Award.
I Challenge Myself (ICM) provides public high school students in high-risk communities of New York City with opportunities to increase self-esteem and health awareness through athletic accomplishment and community involvement.
Twenty-three percent of New York City public high schools do not provide regular physical education and 94 percent are without playing fields.
Based on an idea from founder Ana Reyes’ participation in the 2000 Boston-New York AIDSRide, ICM launched an innovative year-round athletic and community involvement programme with 30 public high school students in South Bronx.
The scheme combines distance cycling with health-related community service projects that provide teenagers in the city’s most underserved communities with opportunities to develop leadership skills, teamwork, improved physical fitness and a commitment to social responsibility.
ICM organises two simultaneous programmes. Challenge Prep consists of safety and general fitness training, group cycling techniques and nutrition workshops to prepare the youngsters to cycle 100 miles in one day, while Community Health Check prepares the young people to serve as health ambassadors who will raise awareness on a health issue affecting their community.
The 30 ICM participants will ultimately conduct a health campaign that will reach out to nearly 1,500 students and their families at four participating South Bronx public high schools.
ICM has been joined by 1984 Olympic cyclist Nelson Vails, a Harlem native, who serves as an honorary board member.
Crime, vandalism and drugs are all problems among the disadvantaged young people in the poverty-stricken area of Cuidad Oeste (West City) in Argentina’s most westerly city, Mendoza.
So, in 1996, two leaders working in a summer school in the area established a club to use sport as a means to help poor children, and Ciudad Oeste has since helped over 400 of them.
For boys in Argentina, football is a passion. Similarly for girls, hockey has become a big attraction since Argentina won the women’s World Hockey Championship in 2002.
Once the boys and girls join the club, they are taught the importance of personal fitness, healthy diet and study—all of them are required to have a good school attendance record.
In addition to sports activities, the children participate in all aspects of running the club, including cooking, cleaning and arranging events, which develops skills and encourages teamwork, friendship and discipline.
Laureus funds have subsidised the training of leaders, the purchase of sports equipment, transport costs and the maintenance of facilities, and the Club Social y Deportivo Ciudad Oeste is working with Fundacion Laureus Argentina to train other organisations.
Golf is sometimes regarded in Germany as a sport for the elite, but not everyone realises that it can also be an extremely successful therapeutic tool for the handicapped.
The coordinated motion of the golf swing can help children in wheelchairs to develop mobility and provides them with an alternative to conventional physiotherapy.
KidSwing has been created by Anthony Netto, who uses a wheelchair himself, in an attempt to support sick and handicapped children. Netto, coach and captain of the German national team of physically challenged golfers, has developed a so-called ‘paragolfer’ that enables children who are unable to walk or who have limited movement to play golf standing up.
The KidSwing programme of the Deutsche Kinderhilfe Direkt (German Childhelp Direct) and the Behinderten Golf Club (Physically Challenged Golf Club) was launched in 2002 in Berlin at an event attended by German heavyweight boxer Axel Schulz and Germany’s Olympic, World and European Gymnastic Champion, Andreas Wecker, who both support the initiative.
It is the aim of the project to open KidSwing sites all over Germany to provide a regular means of therapy and motivation for handicapped children. The Laureus Foundation supports the project at Aschheim Golf Club in Munich and there are plans to establish programmes in Cologne, Osnabrück, Düsseldorf, Castrop Rauxel and Nuremberg.
Midnight Basketball in London is a replica of the successful project of the same name in Richmond, Virginia.
It is run in conjunction with the Rio Ferdinand Live the Dream Foundation, and it uses basketball activities and competition to engage at-risk young people from South and Central London and create training and development opportunities.
The project provides weekly community basketball sessions in areas of high juvenile crime, together with personal development programmes, including drug and alcohol awareness, conflict resolution, equality and diversity training and community safety.
Those who take part in both the basketball coaching and personal development activities are given the opportunity to participate in weekend midnight basketball events, running from 10pm—6am, that incorporate basketball and cultural activities, and help to keep vulnerable young people off the streets at a difficult time.
Participants also play monthly matches in a Midnight Basketball League, and the winning team has the chance to participate in the Midnight Madness event at Wembley each summer.
Midnight Basketball also offers a "careers and employment programme" for those wishing to undertake accredited training such as Community Sports Leaders Award qualifications and work placements.
PeacePlayers International (PPI) uses basketball to unite and educate young people and their communities—over 52,000 children worldwide so far—in Israel and the West Bank, Northern Ireland, South Africa and Cyprus.
In 2008, Laureus Chairman Edwin Moses and Vice Chairman Tanni Grey-Thompson took part in an emotional three-day trip to the West Bank where they spoke to girls in the project about their experiences and took part in a training session.
In 2009, the Laureus Foundation and PPI joined forces with the Arbinger Institute to develop a sport-for-peace-building ‘toolkit’ within PPI’s programme in Israel and the West Bank.
The curriculum, which is taught by coaches recruited from the local community, provides on- and off-court lessons through weekly basketball practices. This helps children develop a language to describe conflict, understand the dynamics of conflict and gives them practical tools to overcome conflict.
The tsunami disaster of December 2004 left large areas of Sri Lanka and Indonesia devastated.
In April 2005, the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation organised a three-day visit to Galle in Sri Lanka led by cricket legend and Laureus Academy Member, Ian Botham, to explore the long-term potential of sport in helping the community.
Following the visit, the Laureus Foundation began working with the Foundation of Goodness, a small but highly regarded NGO, to develop a programme that organised sporting activities and competitions across the villages worst affected by the disaster. This resulted in the development of the Seenigama Sport for Life Project.
The project began in September 2005 with a men’s volleyball competition that attracted hundreds of players and supporters. Today, it has moved on to a long-term commitment to community development and social change through sport.
Working with over 1,400 young people, it now combines sports training across eight rural schools in cricket, volleyball, swimming, netball and badminton, with programs for sports participants that build crucial life-skills such as leadership, confidence, communication skills and sports etiquette.
La Palla Storta—“the oval ball”—is a three-year project which aims to introduce rugby to schools in the most deprived neighbourhoods of Naples and to the detention centre of Nisida (a juvenile penitentiary built on an island in the bay of Naples).
The project has been developed using the facilities of rugby club Amatori Napoli, whose first team plays in the national third division.
In schools, La Palla Storta organises training sessions, offers children the opportunity to play rugby and to integrate with each other through sport.
In Nisida, rugby works as a bridge between life inside and out of prison. Coaching and matches, run by volunteers from the Amatori Napoli team, are run in the detention centre, and once inmates are allowed out of Nisida, they join in activities at Amatori Napoli and take part in external tournaments with the participation of the Federazione Italiana Rugby and affiliated schools.
There is also a follow-up programme for youngsters who leave the penitentiary to help support them to reintegrate into the community and keep them from re-offending.
The project is supported by the Fondazione Laureus Italia and is being monitored by psychologists with the aim of reducing dangerous behaviour among young people.
Rugby is also at the heart of Operation Breakthrough, a ground-breaking project in Hong Kong where sport is being used as a means of helping to fight crime and juvenile delinquency amongst low income and immigrant communities.
The project offers multiple sports alongside rugby—boxing, football, contemporary dance, sailing and dragon boat racing—which are not usually available to working class children in Hong Kong, to teach participants the importance of teamwork, trust, respect for others and discipline.
So far the project has seen reduced re-offending rates, increased school attendance and greater integration into society.
Luta pela Paz—Fight for Peace—is based in Complexo da Maré, a favela where there has been a decade of territorial drug wars between two of Rio de Janeiro's largest trafficking factions.
Through its focus on boxing, Fight for Peace has maintained regular contact with young people from the favela, offering free access to sports and education courses.
The project, which is supported by the Laureus Foundation, also offers training in wrestling and capoeira.
The man behind the project is Luke Dowdney, the 1995 light middleweight British Universities Lonsdale Champion who is now certified as a trainer by the Rio de Janeiro State Boxing Federation.
Since its inception, Sport sans Frontières has helped more than 45,000 children in countries such as Albania, Bolivia, Kosovo, Morocco and Senegal.
The scheme develops sports facilities, trains local educators and helps local organisations to set up sports activities.
In 2003, Sport sans Frontières was invited to Afghanistan by Anwar Jekdalek, President of the Afghan National Olympic Committee, to assist in the social reconstruction of the country. The result was two projects in Kabul—the Women Park’s Programme and the Hazara Community Multi-sport Playground—both of which are now part-funded by the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation.
The Kabul Women Park’s Programme aims to give girls the opportunity to establish themselves as independent, self-confident women through the use of sport. Kabul now has the first public sport centre for women in Afghanistan, with participants taking part in basketball, gymnastics, karate and volleyball.
The hope is that the project will contribute towards a long-term social change in behaviour and attitudes in Afghan society at large.
The Shia Hazara community in Kabul has suffered discrimination, prejudice and religious persecution over centuries, and they have been regarded as second-class citizens in Afghan society. Sport sans Frontières and Enfants du Monde Droits de l’Homme have been working together to implement a sport project within the Hazara community.
The young people learn basketball, handball, volleyball and football, as well as collective and traditional games, with the aim of developing better social inclusion, greater confidence and self-esteem, thus spending less time wandering the streets.
In May this year, Sebastian Coe, Chairman of LOCOG, American sprint star Michael Johnson and five-times Olympic gold medal rower Sir Steve Redgrave teamed up to launch a new partnership between the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation and Track Academy in Willesden, North London.
Track Academy is an organisation that helps young people to achieve their potential despite the circumstances into which they are born. Based at Willesden Sports Centre, the programme was set up by former British triple jumper, Connie Henry, in 2007.
Track Academy helps to combat anti-social behaviour by using sport as the means to engage young people and bring them into an environment with inspirational role models and educational support.
The project combines a track training programme, a mentor and a study plan that together help participants to overcome barriers in their life.
A highlight of the launch was an impromptu sprint on the Willesden track between Johnson, Coe, Redgrave and youngsters from the project.
The Laureus World Sports Academy votes each year to decide the winners of the Laureus World Sports Awards.
The reputation of the Academy has ensured that these are amongst the most sought-after awards in sport, and their recipients are amongst the most respected in their field. 2010’s winners, for example, included Rafael Nadal, Zinedine Zidane, Valentino Rossi and Lindsey Vonn.
But the Awards ceremony, staged at the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi, is about more than celebrating the sporting achievements of the year. It is also an opportunity to elect new Academy Members who have made outstanding life-long contributions both within and beyond their sports.
This year, the new recruits to the Laureus cause were Australian five-times motor-cycle 500cc world champion Mick Doohan and five-times Olympic rowing gold medallist Steve Redgrave.
More important still, however, are the funds raised at and by the event that go directly towards the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation.
The Laureus Football Challenge, for example, brought together teams managed by England icon Bobby Charlton and Bora Milutinovic, one of only two men to have coached five different teams in the World Cup.
The Laureus Golf Challenge, hosted by golf legend Gary Player, contributed €300,000 to the total €0.5 million that was eventually handed to Edwin Moses, Chairman of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation.
Now find out about many more projects going on around the world.
But what better way to end than in the words of some of the young people themselves.
Moses was born in the slums of Mathare in Kenya, but vital support for his local Mathare Youth Sports Association by the Laureus Foundation gave him the confidence and leadership qualities that helped earn him a prestigious Rhodes scholarship to Oxford University where he graduated with a Masters degree. Hi is now a qualified actuary with Deloitte in London.
“What makes Laureus such an extraordinary organisation is the bravery of taking a risk to invest in a very big slum right in the centre of Africa. The one thing I can say about that is it has yielded some huge returns, proved by the number of young kids who are growing up through the system and whose lives are being changed. I say thank you very much to Laureus for your help.”
Manuel wrote from the Foundation's project in Argentina.
“I am 10 years old. I live in a poor neighbourhood in Mendoza City, Argentina. I go to West City Club every day. There, I can play football, have a dinner and learn about a personal computer.
The situation in the area is not as good as years ago. I had problems to assist to the club. It is very dangerous for my brothers and me. Now we have a little bus to move around the zone…My little sister has also begun to come to West City Club. She is playing hockey with the other girls. She goes with my friends and me by bus.
My coach tells us about people from Europe who is thinking in us. We would like to know more about you. Probably I can realise my wish when I will grown-up. We will be waiting you here.”
Annie had been excluded 32 times from school before she joined Track Academy. She has now achieved distinctions in recent exams, fourth place in the individual 100 metres sprint at the Youth Olympics in Singapore and a bronze medal with the relay team.
“Before I came to Willesden, my behaviour wasn’t the best at school. I would get in trouble all the time and wouldn’t take my education seriously. When it came to GCSE, I didn’t get the grades that I hoped for and was really disappointed.
I came and told the coaches…you could see the disappointment in their eyes, but they still stood by me and got me a tutor to teach me three times a week. My behaviour has also improved enormously by having a mentor at Track Academy, and my Head of Year at school supported me as well. I am thankful and grateful.”