Laureus World Sports Academy Member Nawal El Moutawakel has been presented with the Légion d’Honneur by President Francois Hollande at the Élysée Palace in Paris. It is the highest decoration a person can receive in France.
Nawal, a former Vice-Chair of Laureus and Minister of Sport and Youth in Morocco, is the first woman from a Muslim nation to become a Vice-President of the International Olympic Committee. She currently heads the IOC’s Co-ordination Commission for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic and Paralympic Games.
In 1984, she was the first Moroccan, African and Muslim woman to win an Olympic gold medal, in the 400 metres hurdles in Los Angeles.
The announcement of the presentation of the Légion d’Honneur was warmly welcomed by Edwin Moses, the Chairman of the Laureus World Sports Academy.
“Nawal has been breaking down barriers throughout her career. She has been an agent for change in her own country and has had a dramatic effect on the role of women in Moroccan society. She is one of those rare people who make a difference in whatever they do. I am delighted that President Hollande has decided to bestow this honour upon her.”
Her Olympic gold medal proved a major breakthrough for women in Morocco and other Muslim countries and she has made the cause of health and fitness and participation of women in sport the centre piece of her philosophy. As organiser of the Courir pour le Plaisir, an annual 10 km fun run which attracts up to 30,000 women in Casablanca, she has put her beliefs into practice.
She has also been instrumental in supporting two Laureus Sport for Good Foundation projects in Morocco aimed at encouraging women – first the Women in Sport project in Aït Iktel, one of the most isolated and disadvantaged areas of the country, and more recently the Courir pour La Vie project near Casablanca.