Stars back London Olympics to leave lasting legacy By Darren Witcoop (AFP)

LONDON — The great and good of world sport believe the 2012 London Olympics is primed to go down as one of the best Games in history.

The ringing endorsements at Monday’s Laureus World Sports Awards in the British capital came on the day it was revealed that football is the only sport among the 26 events at the Games which has not sold out its ticket allocation.

It’s a record that has seen a host of former Olympians back London to rival recent Games hosts Sydney, Athens and Beijing.

“The atmosphere will be unique,” said former 400m hurdles world and Olympic champion Edwin Moses.

“I have seen London’s Olympic venues and they are fantastic,” the American track great added. “It will help sport, and British sport in general, progress in years to come

Britain’s double Olympic decathlon gold medallist Daley Thompson echoed those sentiments, saying: “There will be unbelievable legacy afterwards. It will be the best ever Olympic Games.

“People talk about Beijing and Sydney, but I think everyone will be blown away with how successful these Olympics will be. You only have to look at the ticket sales to see how it has caught the imagination.”

At the annual Laureus ceremony, Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic was named Sportsman of the Year and Kenyan distance runner Vivian Cheruiyot Sportswoman of the Year.

Djokovic enjoyed one of the best years of any player in the history of professional tennis in 2011, winning three of the sport’s four Grand Slams as he took the Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open titles.

“This is up there with the prizes you can win,” said Djokovic, who saw off competition for the Laureus Award from sprint star Usain Bolt, Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel and Barcelona football maestro Lionel Messi.

“But this wasn’t an individual effort,” said Djokovic, who recently retained his Australian title with a marathon five-set win over Rafael Nadal.

“To compete with the likes of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, the top players the game has ever seen, takes a lot of self-belief and dedication — as well as a great team behind you.

“This means so much to me, my family, my team and country. I feel very proud of my achievements.”

The Laureus Awards, chosen by a panel of 47 sports stars, saw Cheruiyot — one of the outstanding distance runners of her generation — win out over the likes of golfer Yani Tseng and tennis player Petra Kvitova.

Spanish and European football champions Barcelona won the Team of the Year award while Northern Ireland golf celebrated two gongs.

Rory Mcllroy clinched the World Breakthrough of the Year title after winning the US Open and Darren Clarke collected the Comeback of the Year following a maiden British Open Championship triumph at his 20th attempt.

In other awards, South Africa’s ‘Blade Runner’ Oscar Pistorius collected the World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability and American surfer Kelly Slater was named Action Sportsperson of the Year.

Manchester United and England football great Sir Bobby Charlton was given a Lifetime Achievement Award but couldn’t collect it in person due to a recent illness, with United manager Sir Alex Ferguson accepting it on his behalf.

Charlton was honoured on the 54th anniversary of the Munich air disaster which killed several of his United team-mates. He was among those who survived the crash, along with legendary United manager Sir Matt Busby.

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