Nobel winner Yunus brings 'social business' mantra to Olympics

Since the early days of Paris's bid for the 2024 Olympics, the city has been receiving advice from a prestigious counsel: Nobel peace prize winner and social business guru Mohammed Yunus.

Yunus pioneered microcredit in his native Bangladesh from the 1970s, helping lift millions out of poverty by providing traders with small loans to help them start businesses.

His role in Paris as an advisor and ambassador for socially responsible business is a departure from his usual work – and is all the more surprising given the reputation of the Olympics for embracing mega-projects and corporate sponsors.

The 84-year-old admits to not even being a sports fan, but he agreed to come on board after accepting a dinner invitation from Paris's Socialist mayor Anne Hidalgo in 2016 as she and her team were bidding to host the Games.

"I said to them the simplest thing you can do, before you make any decisions about allocating funds, is ask 'does this item have any social purpose?'" Yunus said.

"If it doesn't, not a penny should be allocated," he added.

He says he quickly saw an opportunity to use the power of the Olympics to spread his message about the importance of embracing new ways of doing business, focusing on solving humanity's problems rather than making profits.

"The moment Paris does something, it becomes globally interesting," he said. "There is public awareness about Paris, the respect they have, their history and how they are known for creativity."

A different village

Only two news sports venues have been built, in addition to the athletes' village.


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