The great and good of the celeb world were out in force last night at the 10th Laureus World Sports Awards. Starting slow with the likes of Barry McGuigan, Daley Thompson and Alan Hansen, organisers gradually turned up the heat as they let Lebanese musician Mika, Kyle MacLachlan, Michelle Rodriguez, Clive Owen, Hugh Grant, Kevin Spacey and – finally, like the fairy on the tree – Gwyneth Paltrow loose on the salivating crowd.
Emirates Palace was built for occasions like this, and it felt last night as though its true test had finally arrived. Needless to say, it passed with flying colours.
The slapstick comedy of the previous night’s ‘rehearsal carpet’ was merely an amusing memory; Time Out waited with camera poised for potential mishaps, but the only untoward incidents occurred in the press pits, where grown-up women pushed and shoved like greedy, jealous children.
We did enjoy watching an ill-prepared fashion journalist ask a Scottish sportsman where he got the ‘wonderful idea and influence’ for his kilt. He was polite enough to explain it was his country’s tradition; we doubt we’d have been so kind.
The ceremony itself got off to a great start with host Kevin Spacey cutting fast and loose with occasionally risqué one-liners and a series of hit-and-miss impressions. The audience appeared delighted to find the actor, best known for his intense portrayals of psychopaths and sociopaths, had such a quick sense of humour.
Not that the same could be said for British actor Hugh Grant, who’s uncommunicative presence onstage seemed nothing short of belligerent. He’s known for his dislike of the press, but surely – given the money Laureus must have shelled out to fly him out, put him up in a 7-star hotel and cover his astronomical appearance fees – a little effort wasn’t too much to ask.
No great surprises, then, but a sparkling night that may have even crowned the flashy celebrations that accompanied the F1 back in November. The only headache will have been for future promoters and planners: if Abu Dhabi is now officially the capital of glitz, how do they outdo what has gone before?
The rest of us are delighted, though. Welcome to our city, world. Glad you could come.
The winners at a glance
World sportsman of the year: Usain Bolt
World sportswoman of the year: Serena Williams
Breakthrough of the year: Jenson Button
Comeback of the year: Kim Clijsters
Disability award: Natalie du Toit
Action sportsperson of the year: Stephanie Gilmore
Lifetime achievement award: Nawal El Moutawakel
Laureus Sport for Good award: Dikembe Mutombo