Grimaldi Family

Sovereign Prince’s fondness for Sport Radiates as the Olympic Date approaches

The countdown to the long-awaited Olympic Games has begun in the Principality and the best athletes from different sports disciplines are giving their best to qualify for Tokyo 2020, which has been postponed to 23rd July 2021 due to the pandemic lockdown. A close relationship between sportspeople and Monaco is embedded in the Principality’s culture due to the Sovereign Prince’s genuine passion for sport. Prince Albert II of Monaco, in fact, has always been fond of sports since his youth. As a member of the Bobsleigh national team, he attended the Winter Olympic Games five times, from the 1988, Calgary Games, to the 2002, Salt Lake City Games — one of the few Heads of State to share this primacy. Moreover, he competed twice in the legendary Paris-Dakar rally in 1985 and 1986. His institutional roles within the most prestigious international Sports Bodies reflect his personal commitment in boosting education, peaceful coexistence and sustainability through sporting values which is always evolving. He lends great support to the athletes who attend all the very many prestigious challenges that give witness to his passion. Despite being a small Country Monaco offers every kind of facility for sportspeople, both amateurs and professionals, and every year the Sportel Awards are organized to strengthen the bond between Sports and the Media.

Prince Albert II of Monaco
A two-man bobsleigh competition with hereditary Prince Albert as pilot accompanied by Gilbert Bessi. The XVII Olympic Games, Lillehammer, Norway, February 1994 © Gaëtan Luci – Archives du palais de Monaco – IAM

The Princely desire to plunge himself completely into a sports mood is not an accident. The DNA of winning in sport flows in the veins of Prince Albert as part of a family heritage to be preserved. Princess Grace’s father, John Brendan Kelly Sr. (nicknamed Jack) reached an extraordinary result as the best American professional single-scull rower, achieving two gold medals at the 1920’s Antwerp Olympic Games (Belgium) and one in 1924 in the Paris summer edition. Grace’s brother, John B. Kelly Jr., was a highly regarded winning Olympic, Pan-American and European medallist as well and he was appointed as the President of the United States Olympic Committee in 1985. This sporty family heritage has been transmitted to Prince Albert by His mother when she donated him his grand-father’s trophy ring celebrating that glorious past — something meaningful which pushed the future Sovereign to train in order to become an Olympic athlete himself.

Prince Albert II of Monaco
From left to right: John Brendan Kelly Sr, Margaret Kelly, Peggy Kelly, John Brendan Kelly Jr, Grace Kelly and Lizanne Kelly. Kelly’s family is posing in size order on the beach in front of a canoe. USA, October, 1935 © Archives du palais de Monaco – IAM

Even his father, Prince Rainier III, has always been particularly attached to the sports world, though he had never been a professional. He had a keen interest in football and rugby, practicing also boxing as an amateur. Not by chance, he gave a considerable boost to keep Monaco as a sports hub worldwide encouraging the building of the Louis II Stadium in the new Fontvieille district.

Since the Princely marriage in 2011, Prince Albert II’s passion for sports is fully shared with His wife, Princess Charlène, former Olympic swimmer who is particularly involved in the cause. In December 2012, she founded the Princess Charlène of Monaco Foundation with the aim of conveying the best values to new generations focusing on swimming education, water safety, first-aid and drowning prevention. The Sovereign Prince has always supported her achieving those targets being by her side whilst visiting new sites in under-developed Countries. He increasingly has united their efforts through joint fundraising with the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation — for example, on the occasion of the extraordinary Calvi — Monaco Water Bike Challenge in which Princess Charlène partnered with other athletes in September 2020.

Prince Albert II of Monaco
Prince Albert, hereditary prince Jacques and princess Gabriella celebrating the victory of the “Serenity” team led by its captain Princess Charlène. Calvi — Monaco Waterbike Challenge, September 2020 © Eric Mathon / Palais Princier

Prince Albert II of Monaco Olympic career

The young Prince Albert had the chance to watch the Bobsleigh games several times as for example in Lake Placid Olympics (U.S.A) in 1980. He thought then he could try it one day. The opportunity turned out, soon after the Prince was enjoying a skiing holiday in St. Moritz (Switzerland) when he was offered a bobsledding test-drive together with a skillful driver. This was an experience he enjoyed as an amateur never thinking of his future competitive role. The following year, Prince Albert started to train himself at the invitation of a well-known coach. Things went pretty well including getting along with the team with whom he attended some competitions before qualifying for the Olympic games two years later. “Carrying Monaco’s flag at the Olympics was very emotional, not only because you realize that you are at the biggest sport and cultural event on the planet and you are walking into a stadium full of people that are cheering you on, but you realize that you are representing your Country and a lot of people at home are watching you”, pointed out Prince Albert II of Monaco in 2017 during an exclusive interview by the American journalist Graham Michael Bensinger. An unforgettable memory for the Prince who has always shared intensely the Olympic spirit with other athletes.

Prince Albert II of Monaco
The Monegasque national team (hereditary Prince Albert, Charles Oula, Sébastien Gattuso and Patrice Servelle) during the four-man bobsleigh competition in the XIX Olympic Winter Games. Salt Lake City, USA, February 2002 © Gaëtan Luci – Archives du palais de Monaco – IAM

His extraordinary enthusiasm for that discipline has remained until nowadays. The Sovereign Prince, in fact, is the President of the Fédération Monégasque de Bobsleigh, de Luge et de Skeleton (Monegasque Bobsleigh, Luge and Skeleton Federation), that he founded in 1987.

Prince Albert II of Monaco
Hereditary Prince Albert during the Paris — Alger — Dakar Rally accompanied by Jean-Pierre Marsan, 1985. All rights reserved – Archives du palais de Monaco – IAM

Princely Acknowledgments in the World of Sport

The Sovereign Prince has held the role of International Olympic Committee member since 1985 and he has been particularly active in supporting their initiatives. He is also Honorary sympathizer of the Paralympic Games for their deep commitment in uniting people and promoting diversity.

Since 1994, Prince Albert II of Monaco was appointed as chairman of the Monaco’s Olympic Committee, just as was his ancestor, Prince Pierre of Monaco, from 1952 until 1964. The main mission of this significant institution is to arrange any official Olympic Games delegation from the Principality, and being constantly in touch with the International Olympic Committee (I.O.C.) to comply with all its directives. 

89th Monte-Carlo Rally
Prince Albert II at the awards ceremony of the Rallye Monte-Carlo, January, 2021 © Jean-Marc Follete
F1 Monaco Grand Prix: the great sport show was back to revive
Max Verstappen being awarded the Monaco Grand Prix trophy by the Sovereign Prince (F1 Monaco Grand Prix, 23rd May 2021).© ACM

Since its establishment in 2007, he has been the main sponsor of Peace and Sport, a neutral and independent international organization to enhance peace through sport initiatives in hotspots around the world. Furthermore, since 2011 he has been chairing the World Olympians Association and, from 2014 to 2015, he chaired the Sport and Environment Commission within the I.O.C. His great support for all kinds of sport is underlined by His presence at the most popular matches like AS Monaco football & basketball Clubs and the Monaco Sevens Rugby that will take part in the Tokyo Olympics. His attendance at the Award Ceremonies of key sporting events like the Monte-Carlo Grand Prix and Rally, the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters and the Monaco Run, an urban marathon, is a must as well.  

Prince Albert II of Monaco
The Princely couple and the late Baroness Elizabeth-Anne de Massy, then President of the Monte-Carlo Tennis Club, with Rafael Nadal, the winner of the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters (April 2018) © REALIS

Monaco’s attachment to Sport has never been stronger than today by the will of Prince Albert II of Monaco. His words pronounced on the occasion of the 2015 Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Creative Sports Award appointing Him as the International Sports Figure of the Year within Peace and Sport, are thoroughly topical: “Sport can foster stability, reconciliation and dialogue between communities and, in this troubled world, it has proven that it can even facilitate lasting solutions for peace which bestows political leaders with new responsibilities”.

Prince Albert II of Monaco
Prince Albert, Honorary President and captain of the AS Star Team for the Children, attacking during the charity match against the F1 drivers. Stade Louis-II, May 2019 © HelloMonaco
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