Nobel laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus has incorporated the name of his motherland to the history of the Olympic Games, as the creator of Grameen Bank was honoured with Olympic Laurel at the opening ceremony of the 32nd Games of the Olympiad, Tokyo 2020. The economist turned revolutionary banker turned social entrepreneur, Dr Yunus received the award virtually on 23 July 2021, as he did not visit Japan due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I am honoured and overwhelmed to receive this Olympic Laurel, which is so special to me,” said the soft-spoken Bangladeshi gentleman, while speaking to this correspondent from Dhaka, adding that it’s a significant moment for the Olympic history of his south Asian home nation too. Bangladesh has not won an Olympic medal till date, but this time millions of Bengalis find a reason to celebrate, observed the world's banker to the poor.
Appreciating the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and wishing a success to its mission to transform the world to a more peaceful place for the entire human race through the sports, Prof Yunus reiterated the pledge to create a world of three zeros comprising nil carbon emission, nil wealth concentration to end the poverty and once for all, nil unemployment by unleashing the power of entrepreneurship in everyone.
The extraordinary orator becomes second recipient of the rare Olympic honour after Kenyan social changemaker Kip Keino, who was awarded on 5 August 2016 at the opening ceremony of Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games. Initiated the IOC to honour outstanding individuals for their achievements in education, culture, development and peace through sport, the award is designed to hand over in each summer edition of the Olympic Games.
IOC President Thomas Bach commented that the innovative banker, who made small loans available to the poorest of the poor without any collateral, has been selected for the honour for his extensive works in sport for development, including founding the Yunus Sports Hub, a global social business network that creates solutions through sport.
Prof Yunus collaborated with the IOC on several projects, including educational elements of the IOC young leader’s program focusing on human development through peace and sport.
Prof Yunus shares his wealth of knowledge generously with the athletes and the Olympic community and he helps athletes in their post-sport career development to become socially responsible entrepreneurs and shares the vision of how sport can contribute to the UN’s sustainable development goals. Recipient of numerous international awards for his ideas and endeavours including Nobel peace prize in 2006, he remains a great inspiration for all, stated the IOC President.
Born in 1940 to a middle-class businessman’s family in Chittagong of south Bangladesh, Prof Yunus studied in Chittagong and Dhaka and then reached Vanderbilt University with a Fulbright scholarship to pursue higher study on economics. He received his PhD in economics in 1969 and after some years teaching there the young Bangladeshi scholar returned to his country in 1972, just one year after Bangladesh was born (out of eastern Pakistan).
“Sport is natural to all human beings. It brings all human strengths and emotions into play, irrespective of differences. That gives it enormous power. I urge that we channel this power to transform lives by galvanising the world, and social business can be the most efficient tool to unleash this power,” said Prof Yunus adding that the Olympic unites the entire world in peaceful competition, celebrating unity in diversity.
The energetic octogenarian reminded that the novel corona virus has brought numerous challenges to various events including the extravaganza like Olympic Games, but it also fetches a huge opportunity for the human race. Now it is necessary to put man back at the centre and work together to rebuild tomorrow, looking not to the past but to the future, stated the author of acclaimed book ‘Building Social Business’.
“If we embrace a new social and environmental awareness, a use of the economy not as a mere science, useful for maximising profits, but rather as a tool to achieve the greatest possible happiness of individuals and the community, we can create a new world,” added Prof Yunus, who leads ‘Yunus Centre’, a global hub of social business, highlighting its mission to create sustainable social enterprises not just for profit, but to solve people's problems, specifically in the corona-recovering world.
While addressing the limited audience on the ground and billions of live television viewers around the world on Friday, the IOC President commented, “Today is a moment of hope. Yes, it is very different from what all of us had imagined. But let us cherish this moment. Finally, we are all here together, the athletes from 205 National Olympic Committees and the IOC Refugee Olympic Team, living under one roof together in the Olympic Village,” adding that the message of solidarity, peace and resilience gives hope for our further journey together.