Laureus’s Olympic greats wowed by London Games

“I’m just jealous I never had the chance to compete in an Olympic Games in London,” Mark Spitz, the winner of seven Olympic swimming golds at the 1972 Munich Olympics, told the world’s sports media ahead of tonight’s Laureus World Sports Awards, that are being hosted at Westminster’s Central Hall.

Mark Spitz: "jealous" that he cannot compete at the London Olympics

Four other Olympic greats, who together with Spitz boast 19 gold medals between them, joined the American to pass a unanimous vote of confidence in London hosting a successful Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Edwin Moses, Laureus Academy Chairman, said: “I have seen London’s Olympic venues and they are fantastic. Some of the most impressive and beautiful features are going to be the trees and parks there. When I visited the site there was one particular area where there were wild flowers growing on a hillside. It is going to be very spectacular.”

Sergey Bubka, the greatest pole vaulter in history, said: “It is a great honour to be in London for the Laureus World Sports Awards prior to the 2012 Olympic Games. It will be a unique Olympiad, the first time one city has hosted three Olympic Games.

“It will be a great and historic moment for London, and there will be an unbelievable legacy afterwards. The venues will provide a unique chance for the people of London to bring their kids and do sports. That will have a fantastic impact.”

Bubka, a Laureus Academy Member who is also President of the National Olympic Committee of the Ukraine, believes the ethos behind the Laureus World Sports Awards is a perfect fit with the Olympics.

He said: “The Games are all about medals, of course, but I believe their main value is to celebrate humanity. It is about the importance of sport, to give passion to the younger generation, to engage them.”

Laureus Academy Member Nadia Comaneci, the most celebrated gymnast of our time, said: “I’m very happy that we can stage the Laureus World Sports Awards in London because it is a great pre-Olympic start for what is going to happen in the summer.

“London is the place to be when the Olympics are happening. You have to be there, whether you are a competitor, a parent or a supporter.”

Double Olympic decathlon gold medallist Daley Thompson, completing the panel of Laureus Academy Members, revealed he cannot wait for the world to come to Great Britain. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity to show people how well we can do things, it will be a fantastic Games,” he said.

“I’m just glad that we have the chance to show our country off. We put on big events really well, and no event is bigger than the Olympic Games.”

The stellar Laureus panel: from left Moses, Thompson, Spitz, Comeneci and Bubka

The Laureus World Sports Awards, which recognise sporting achievement during the year, are the premier honours on the international sporting calendar. The winners are chosen by the Laureus Academy Members and proceeds from the Awards directly benefit and underpin the work of the Laureus Foundation, which supports 91 community sports projects in 34 countries.

Since its inception, Laureus has raised more than €40 million for projects which have improved the lives of more than one-and-a-half million young people.