When Hollywood star Kevin Spacey arrives on stage to host the world's most famous sports function — the Laureus World Sports Awards — on March 10 (Wednesday) at the Emirates Palace Hotel, it will mark the completion of a decade of the Laureus Academy.
From Tiger Woods and Marion Jones (2000) to Usain Bolt and Yelena Isinbayeva (2009), who won the Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year respectively, the academy has travelled quite a distance managing wonderfully the contradictions and fine tuning a complicated process of selecting sportspersons in different categories into a simple and non-controversial one.
The sports awards have come to be recognised as the premier event in the international sporting calendar and the ceremony does provide a high profile focus as stars of the sporting world come together to salute the finest sportsmen and sportswomen of the year.
The winners are selected by the sports jury — the 46 members of the Laureus World Sports Academy. There is a two-part voting process to find the winners of the sports awards.
Firstly, a selection panel of the world's leading sports editors, writers and broadcasters vote to create a shortlist of six nominations each in five categories — Laureus World Sportsman of the Year, Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year, Laureus World Team of the Year, Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year and Laureus World Comeback of the Year.
The nominations for two additional categories — the Laureus World Action Sportsperson of the Year and the Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability are made by specialist panels. The members of the Laureus World Sports Academy then vote by secret ballot to select the award winners in all seven categories.
World No.1 tennis players in men and women, Roger Federer and Serena Williams, Formula One World champion Jenson Button, FIFA Footballer of the Year Lionel Messi, German swimming sensation Britta Steffen, US basketball legend Julius Erving, World light-welterweight champion Amir Khan, West Indian cricket legend Brian Lara are among a host of sporting celebrities expected to attend the prestigious function.