Laureus Awards diary: Starstruck by a league of legends

As the Diary stepped into the stadium which hosted the historic 1936 Berlin Olympics, he could sense history everywhere.

India’s Sachin Tendulkar won the ‘Laureus Greatest Sporting Moment 2000 to 2020’ Award at the 2020 Laureus World Sports Awards in Berlin, Germany. Laureus Academy members Boris Becker (left) and Steve Waugh are avid listerners as the little master speaks.   -  Getty Images

February 15: It’s 2 a.m. in Delhi and as the Lufthansa flight to Munich takes off, the Diary makes a serious vow. The Laureus World Sports Awards function in Germany is just a three-day affair and he does not want to land in Berlin sleepy and grumpy. So he just has a can of beer, switches off the in-flight entertainment and enjoys a nice, long nap.

That works and some nine hours later, and after another flight, the Diary lands in Berlin fresh as a mint leaf!

But where’s the Merc that is supposed to take him to the hotel?

After a nice bus and train ride and a walk near where the famed Berlin Wall once stood, the Diary lands at Hotel Indigo. The cool beer in the fridge is very tempting but it’s already 11 a.m., and close to 4 p.m. in India, and the Diary realises he has a lot of things to do on his Berlin trip’s only free day. He rushes to the Ostbahnhof Station to take another train, this time to visit the Olympiastadion, some 17km away.

The security officer at the Olympiastadion is a friendly bloke. “Oh, you’re from Kerala? My wife is from Rajasthan. I love South India, I hear it’s a very beautiful place, beautiful people too... Want to go there some day,” he says.

And as the Diary steps into the stadium which hosted the historic 1936 Berlin Olympics, he could sense history everywhere. The stadium is massive and runs deep with many gallery rows built under the ground. He could see the place where Adolf Hitler stood 84 years ago and almost imagine the 100,000 people standing up to salute him. Images of American Jesse Owens, running and long jumping to take those four Olympic golds that made him a legend, flash by. Not far away is the hockey venue where Dhyan Chand fired in goal after goal as India won its third consecutive Olympic hockey gold.

After filing a story on the memorable trip, the Diary is ready for the night. There’s the ‘Kick on Ice’ event hosted by German Katarina Witt, the two-time Olympic figure-skating champion once called ‘the most beautiful face of Socialism,’ and he is excited.

The other journos opt to go around Berlin or rest and the Diary, the lone Indian at the Witt event, is richly rewarded. As he takes the passage to the hall, a small crowd comes up behind him and he notices some very familiar faces! There’s Sergey Bubka, Edwin Moses, Daley Thompson, Yelena Isinbayeva, Steve Waugh and so many more. Wow! He’s surrounded by legends. The event organisers are not very familiar with all the celebrities and they quietly ask the Laureus Academy members to step forward and get into the ice hockey hall. The Diary quietly takes a walk with the greats into the hall. Nobody stops him!

Host Hugh Grant asks for applause to commemorate late Kobe Bryant during the Awards.   -  Getty Images

 

A few minutes later, quick selfies are taken with the stars. “Your pictures are lovely, I look very good there,” Daley Thompson tells the Diary.

February 16: It’s the day for interviews at the media centre inside the Mercedes Benz building and it’s packed with legends. There’s Mark Spitz, Nadia Comaneci, Michael Johnson, Sergey Bubka, Boris Becker, Daley Thompson, Steve Waugh and many more. The Diary along with a few fellow-journos from India tackle Steve Waugh first since the Indian cricketers will be touring Australia later this year. And then chat with Boris Becker.

The Diary is in a dilemma. He wants to stay longer but there’s the daily’s deadline fast approaching. He is keen to talk to Daley Thompson but a German television crew appears to have caught hold of the Brit first. The Diary has a word with Thompson who promises to return in a few minutes. Thompson returns after a while and another TV channel rushes to get him. But Thompson chooses to speak to the Diary first and sits down for a nice exclusive chat. “It was a pleasure talking to you, you remember the good old days very well,” says Thompson. The day is made.

February 17: It’s the 20th Laureus World Awards Day and the Diary is the only Indian journalist picked to attend the function. He’s very excited... It’s a black tie event and after a small struggle with the collar button to fix the bow, he is ready for the evening. A few minutes later, he is floating on the red carpet at the Verti Music Hall, struggling to hold himself down. Once inside, he is quick to spot Sachin Tendulkar. It’s already 10.30 p.m. in India and since the Master Blaster is the favourite for the ‘Laureus Greatest Sporting Moment 2000 to 2020’ Award, he is keen to get his comments in advance. “I’ll tell all that on the stage when I get the award,” Tendulkar says with a smile.

The Diary then walks into the star circle and sees legends everywhere. It’s like walking in a dream... The champagne in an ice bucket on his table just adds to the effect!