On Nelson Mandela Day, Laureus Academy Members honour our first Patron
Today is Nelson Mandela International Day.
It was launched in recognition of Mandela’s birthday on 18 July, 2009 via unanimous decision of the UN General Assembly.
It is more than a celebration of Madiba’s life and legacy. It is a global movement to honour his life’s work and act to change the world for the better.
Nelson Mandela was the first Patron of Laureus . At the inaugural Laureus World Sports Awards in 2000, President Mandela said: “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. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination.” This has become the philosophy of Laureus Sport for Good and the driving force behind its work.
Laureus Sport for Good's goal is to help young people overcome the limitations imposed by challenging social issues supporting sport-related community projects all around the world. This mission was inspired by the great Nelson Mandela.
Laureus Academy Members, some of the greatest living sporting legends, have paid tribute to the great man, sharing their best memories and reflecting on how Mandela has impacted their life. His legacy is alive and well through the work of Laureus Sport for Good.
Laureus Academy Chairman Sean Fitzpatrick
“I first met Nelson Mandela when the All Blacks were the first sports team allowed back into South Africa after the breakdown of the apartheid regime. It was quite an eventful and moving time. I had just assumed I would never go to South Africa so to get the opportunity was a dream come true.
The memory of seeing Nelson Mandela walk on to Ellis Park three years later clad in a Springbok jersey in front of a stadium of tens of thousands of adoring fans before the 1995 Rugby World Cup final at Ellis Park was also unforgettable. It was the most unbelievable atmosphere. We didn't know that he was going to come into the stadium and just to feel the power that filled the stadium with was quite phenomenal.
Another enduring memory was the speech he gave as Founding Patron of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation in Monaco in 2000. He said that ‘sport has the power to change the world, to inspire and to unite people’. That is something which I will always take with me...it was a wonderful speech.”
“Thanks to my sport I have travelled the world and have got to know many interesting people, but on my travels I have seen the dark side: poverty, violence, crime, drugs. With Laureus, we give young people who need to grow up in such conditions hope.
No one knows the power of sport better than our Patron Nelson Mandela did. His career was unique and incredibly inspiring. For 27 years he was in prison. Three years after his release, he received the Nobel Peace Prize, a year later, he became President of his country.
At the Laureus World Sports Awards 2000 in Monaco and a holiday in South Africa in 2007, I had the honour to meet Nelson Mandela. To shake hands with him was for me a very special moment. For us Laureus Academy Members it is an honour that a personality as he stood behind the idea of Laureus and supported us as Patron.”
“He was the most remarkable and respected man. I'll always remember when he put his arm around me and thanked me for my stance against apartheid. I was flattered by that as I hadn't realised how much it meant to so many people.”
“Mr Mandela worked tirelessly all of his life for racial equality and his legacy will live on way beyond our lifetime. I feel blessed to have lived during his life span and privileged to have met him on a number of occasions.”
“Nelson Mandela was our Patron for Laureus and I met him in Monaco when he made a statement with a very deep meaning for sport - ‘Sport has the power to change the world’. He said sport can break any racial, political, economic, religious, cultural barrier.
I had been racing in the South Africa Grand Prix of Kyalami for many years and I have been travelling to South Africa for over 40 years, so I personally experienced the difference he made for his people and for his country.
Nelson Mandela was an example for the rest of the world and for this reason he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. He was a man blessed by God.”
Marvelous Marvin Hagler
“Nelson Mandela was an extraordinary person. Simple and humble. I had the honour to know him and I have wonderful memories of his hospitality. He will be remembered forever as the one who has done what few would have done in this world.
Nelson Mandela was the Patron of the Laureus Foundation. He told us: “Sport has the power to change the world”. To date, myself and all the other Academy Members working through the Laureus Foundation have helped millions of children in the world and we will continute to pursue this project in honour of Nelson Mandela.”
“Nelson Mandela was one of the greats of our time. I was lucky enough to meet him in South Africa and I was really moved by his warmth, generosity and wisdom. I think the world is a better place for having had him in it. He was always interested in sport. He obviously had a major impact on the world, but he also had a major impact on sport. I think that people truly understand, because of his words, that sport has the power to change the world; the real, true power of sport, but also the responsibility sport has.”
Nawal El Moutawakel
“I had the privilege to meet him in person for the first time in March 1996 in Stellenbosch, South Africa as the IAAF Council member during the IAAF World Cross Country Championships. He really liked the event and made a statement saying: “this event brings back fond memories of my childhood days, when as a school pupil I used to participate in cross country myself”.
I was introduced to him as the 1st African female athlete to ever win a gold medal at the Summer Olympic Games. He was very proud and asked me if I could join the Cape Town bid Team for the 2004 Olympic Games; which I did with great pride.
I met him again in Morocco; it was back in 1998 when I was Minister of Sport and again, in Monaco in 2000, at the launch of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation. Each time we met, he would speak about the power of sport as an agent for social change.”
“Nelson Mandela is perhaps the last political leader who was loved by everyone. He was jailed for 27 years for what he believed and yet when he was finally released he gave us a message not of anger and bitterness, but of unity and hope. That is an example that should be followed by every leader today.
He only served one term as President, unlike so many of our leaders, who seem to want to hang on to power for its own sake. I was lucky enough to be the Argentinian Ambassador in South Africa during the period when he was President and witnessed the amazing things he did there to bring his country together. When I left he invited me into his home and gave me the Good Hope decoration for my work as Ambassador. You can imagine that was one of the most emotional moments of my life.
After the creation of Laureus, President Mandela became our Patron and took a great interest in everything that we did. He was an inspiration to me and to my fellow members of the Laureus World Sports Academy. I do not think we will ever see anyone like him again. I am just grateful that we were able to share some special moments with him.”