NADAL NUMBER ONE AT AWARDS CEREMONY

The capital of Asturias, Oviedo, pulled out all the stops last Friday to celebrate another Prince of Asturias Awards ceremony. Last week’s rain had abated and the sun shone brilliantly on the thousands of people who turned out to watch Queen Sofia, Crown Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia and the winners arrive at the Campoamor Theatre, with tennis’s Number One, Rafael Nadal, a clear favourite with the crowd. The second most popular was Ingrid Betancourt, who was running for president in Colombia when she was kidnapped by the Farc guerrilla group more than six years ago. She was rescued by soldiers posing as guerrillas earlier this year and now lives in Paris for security reasons. During her acceptance speech, she told how she had listened to radio commentaries about an up-and-coming tennis player called Rafael Nadal and never dreamed that she would one day sit next to him at the Prince of Asturias Awards ceremony. Nadal was visibly moved and said afterwards that it gave him goose pimples to think of a lonely, brave woman following his career in a jungle hideaway where she was being kept ahainst her will in deplorable conditions. The other award winners were Margaret Atwood, who collected the Literature Award for defending the dignity of women and denouncing social injustice in her work. Co-founder of Google, Larry Page, was there to collect the Communication and Humanities Award and representatives of health centres in Tanzania, Ghana, Mali and Angola received the International Cooperation Award for their work in the fight against malaria. Maestro Jose Antonio Abreu collected the Arts Award on behalf of Venezuela’s Foundation for Juvenile and Infantile Orchestras which has been rescuing poor children from the country’s slums and giving them careers in music since Sr Abreu founded the first youth orchestra there 20 years ago. Japanese scientists Sumio Iijama and Shuji Nakamura, and the Americans Robert Langer, George M Whitesides and Tobin Marks shared the Scientific and Technical Award, and French-Bulgarian philosopher Tzvetan Todorov collected the Social Sciences Award for his work on freedom and equality, the development of democracy and the impact of violence on the collective memory.

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