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Bangladesh's Nobel laureate to become the second recipient of Olympic Laurel

81-year old economist turned-globe-trotting celebrity will be receiving Olympic Laurel at the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics

Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus

Olympic Laurel Professor Muhammad Yunus (Source: Jason DeCrow/AP)


Kalptaru Agarwal

Updated: 21 July 2021 9:00 AM GMT

Nobel Peace Prize awardee Muhammad Yunus is set to be awarded the Olympic laurel. This Bangladeshi 81-year old economist turned-globe-trotting celebrity will be receiving his award at the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics on July 23, 2021.

This is the second time in history that this award is being given but what is this laurel about and why did it begin in the first place? These questions might be popping in your head alongside who is Muhummad Yunus and why is he deserving of this laurel? Let's find out.

The Olympic Laurel

Created 5 years ago, the Olympic laurel recognizes the efforts of individuals in culture, education, peace, and development through sports. It was conferred upon Kipchoge Keino, a Kenyan Olympian and social changemaker at the 2016 Rio Olympics for the very first time.

He was awarded the Olympic laurel due to his contribution in providing schools, safe houses, and sports training for Kenyan children. It is a trophy having a base of a stone replica from the site of Olympia, Greece which symbolizes the connection with the ancient Olympic Games.

The Olympic Laurel trophy with the stone from the site of Olympia, Greece (Source: Olympics)

In a statement, Thomas Bach, President of IOC highlighted the prominence of this award as he said,

"With the Olympic Laurel, we take forward the vision of Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder, and reviver of the modern Olympic Games. It is also a reflection of the ideals and values of the ancient Olympics Games, with a focus on human development through sports."

Who is Muhammad Yunus?

The Nobel Laureate is a Bangladeshi social entrepreneur, economist, banker and civil society leader who founded the Grameen Bank and pioneered the concepts of microcredit and microfinance for people living in poverty.

For the same reasons, he was given the Nobel Peace Prize in the year 2006. Professor Yunus is often referred to as "world's banker to the poor" and is a member of the boards of the United Nations Foundation.

Professor Muhammad Yunus (Source: Getty Images)

He has faced some legal troubles in the past after he was sacked in 2011 as head of the Grameen Bank. He is said to be targeted by Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who has accused him of "sucking blood" from the poor with high-interest rates. He was also fined $88 in March 2020 after a social business firm set up by him broke labor laws.

What has been the contribution of Muhammad Yunus in the field of sports?

Since the award is given to honor the special contribution of a person to sports, Yunus stands as the leader to promote the theory of development through sports by creating an organization named "Yunus Sports Hub."

Along with this, he collaborated with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on various projects which include the Athlete365 Business Accelerator - the first comprehensive entrepreneurship mission to help Olympians with career transition, 'Imagine' Peace Youth Camp and IOC Young Leaders Programme.

Professor Muhammad Yunus with the IOC President Thomas Bach during a meeting at Olympic House in Lausanne in 2020 (Source: Olympics)

Professor Yunus is known to share his wealth of knowledge generously with the athletes and the Olympic community and help the players in their post-sports career development to become socially responsible entrepreneurs. He shares the vision of making sports a contributor to the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.

Muhammad Yunus is helping the Olympic Community to build a new model for the Olympic Games with minimum impact for the planet and maximum impact for a legacy for the people and host country particularly for Paris 2024.

What views does Professor Yunus have about the Olympics?

He believes that the Olympic Movement is deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize as the Olympic Games takes forward the vision of building a better world based on fair competitions, peace, and humanity.For example, North and South Korean athletes marching together in the Parade of Nations at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic games was a powerful step and a reminder that sports can bring peace to this world.

The Olympics unites the world bringing all the diverse cultures together and he says,

"We can use this power to change the world in the most effective ways. Sports has the power to transform lives by galvanizing the world, and social business can be the most efficient tool to unleash this power."
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