Bangladesh's 'banker to the poor' Yunus awarded prestigious Olympic Laurel

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Tokyo - The 81-year-old Nobel laureate accepts award via video link from his home in Dhaka.

By Xinhua

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Published: Fri 23 Jul 2021, 4:59 PM

Bangladeshi 'banker to the poor' Muhammad Yunus has written the name of his country into Olympic history, as he was awarded the Olympic Laurel at the opening ceremony of Tokyo Olympics on Friday night.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced that Yunus will become the second recipient of the laurel, which was introduced in 2016 to honor people who have "made significant achievements in education, culture, development and peace through sport."

A banker by trade, Yunus, has dedicated his life to fighting poverty around the world through establishing the Grameen Bank - a community development bank that makes small loans to impoverished people without requiring collateral. His work has therefore earned him the nickname of the "world's banker to the poor."

He was given the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.

The 81-year-old man accepted the award by video link from his home in Dhaka and said it represented a significant moment for Bangladesh's Olympic history.

In addition to his work with the impoverished, Yunus has also collaborated with the IOC on a Young Leaders Programme for athletes.

IOC President Thomas Bach spoke highly of Yunus for his "extensive work" helping athletes "become socially responsible entrepreneurs" and for his work building a new sustainable Olympic model.

Born in the Chittagong district of Bangladesh in 1940, Yunus was educated at the Chittagong College and the Department of Economics at Dhaka University.

After spending 13 years lecturing at various institutions and working on his PhD in economics, Yunus in 1974 became involved in reducing poverty, championing microcredit small loans with small interest rates for poor people.

In 1983 his pilot microfinance program had 28,000 members and became the Grameen - or village - Bank.

By 2007 the bank had issued loans worth 6.38 billion US dollars to 7.4 million borrowers.

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