Members of the Laureus World Sports Academy arrived in Monaco yesterday for the announcement of the 2003 Laureus World Sports Awards.
The winners will be revealed in an Awards Ceremony in the Grimaldi Forum, Monte Carlo, on 20 May, which will bring together the giants of sport, past and present, and which will be watched around the world by an estimated TV audience of 320 million.
The Laureus Academy is made up of 41 of the greatest sportsmen and sportswomen of all time and their Chairman Edwin MOSES, double Olympic hurdles champion, said: "It's great to be in Monaco again to announce how the Academy has voted for the Laureus Awards. It's been a fantastic year for sport and it's been a very difficult choice.
"But it's also been a tremendous year for Laureus. Our work for underprivileged young people through the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation has really taken off in the last 12 months and we are all very excited about the future,"
The Laureus Academy members will also have their annual meeting in Monaco and review the work that is done by the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation. The Foundation, which is actively backed by members of the Academy, supports 20 projects worldwide using sport as the tool by which young people can improve the quality of their lives and their opportunities.
In March the Academy visited Shanghai in China for the announcement of the nominations for this year's awards and to visit a project for children with special needs.
Academy member Nadia COMANECI, the great Olympic gymnast, said: "It was a very moving visit. They were so excited to see us. Our visit generated an enormous amount of interest in the plight of these children. It shows how the link between the Laureus Awards and the work of the Foundation can make a real difference."
All the Laureus World Sports Academy agree that the competition for the 2003 Laureus World Sports Awards could not be hotter.
Britain's double Olympic decathlete Daley THOMPSON said:
"Every Academy member votes in secret, and I'm sure it has been as tough a decision for everyone else as it was for me. All the nominees are the world's best athletes and it's a shame we can only give away one award for each category."
Germany's Olympic ice skating star Katarina WITT said: "The list of nominees is as spectacular as ever, but I will be rooting for Franziska van Almsick, a swimmer from Germany. She had a great comeback this year and I would be very excited if she won the Laureus World Comeback of the Year category."
Last year's greatest accolade of both a Lifetime achievement award, and the Sport for Good award, were given posthumously to Sir Peter BLAKE for his success, and dedication to sailing, the work of the academy, and his tireless efforts for the environment
The Awards Ceremony provides a fitting climax to two days of high-profile events which include the Laureus Golf Challenge, hosted by Gary Player and presented by Mercedes-Benz and English luxury men's brand dunhill, the spectacular Laureus Regatta which attracts world class yachtsmen including Jochen SCHUEMANN and JJ ISLER, and is presented by Mercedes-Benz AMG and Italian watch company Officine Panerai, and the Laureus Tennis Challenge which will feature Boris BECKER, John Mcenroe, Henri LECONTE and Ilie NASTASE.