Legends of sport reflect on inspiring visit to Laureus in Argentina
There really couldn’t have been a weekend of greater contrasts for Laureus Academy Member Nawal El Moutawakel.
One day the legendary Morrocan runner was jumping miniature hurdles with passionate young athletes, the next she was at one of world sport’s most important events: The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Congress.
It is an appropriate image, and signifies the journey everything Nawal and Laureus believe about how sport can help any child, in any playing field, find a way to achieve their dreams.
This was all taking place in the Argentinian capital of Buenos Aires, where the 125th IOC congress was being held in order for world sport leaders to vote on several monumental topics that will affect the future of the Olympics for years.
But despite the important work that lay ahead of them as IOC members, Nawal, Sergey Bubka, Sebastian Coe and Kip Keino took the time to visit their fellow Laureus Academy Member, and Chairman of the Laureus Foundation Argentina, Hugo Porta, to see how sport is changing young lives in the capital.
The 100 young athletes benefitted from pole vault lessons from Sergey Bubka, who still holds the world record to this day, and running advice from Kip Keino and Sebastian Coe, the legendary athletes who offered their time to the youngsters also.
Adding to the incredible collection of sport greats were Laureus Ambassador Alejandra García, swimming great Donna de Varona and Irena Szewinska.
Reflecting on the visit, Nawal, who was instrumental in bringing the legendary collection of sport names together to meet the young people of the Parque Sarmiento Sports Complex, explained how this visit really was one of friendship within the Laureus family.
“We took the opportunity to support our friend Hugo Porta, our founder of the Laureus Foundation here in Argentina, and to support him in this fantastic project.
“[It] is mainly directed to help these kids, kids from different neighbourhoods here in Argentina, and in Buenos Aires, to show them the impact that sport can have in their lives, and the power that sports can have in their lives.”
Nawal is a true inspiration for women’s sport. She was the first Morrocan, African and Muslim woman to win an Olympic gold medal, an achievement that created a new dawn of women’s sport in her country.
But in Buenos Aires, she was happy to see the youngsters give her a run for her money.
She said: “I was beaten by many of them running, and then talking to them about their dreams [and what] they want to fulfil later on in their lives … so I hope that our presence here today will help them fulfil their dreams, and help spread our message, which is sport is for peace, for excellence, for uniting communities.
”Sport within seconds, within minutes, can transform the lives of all generations that are existing today and the ones that are yet to come.”
It is a message Hugo Porta himself keenly shares.
“There are a lot of challenges in Argentina, the main thing for us is to have the community involved, we will go, not to set [up] a project, but to support a project that is already in place, that's what we are doing in Argentina.
“I was so delighted that so many of the Laureus Academy came today. They are in Buenos Aires for very important Olympic business but they made the time to come and meet the children here and see what the Laureus Foundation is doing in Argentina.”