During the opening of the 2020 Olympic Games, the ceremony presented by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) awarded an Olympic laurel – the leaves tiara common to the competition's medalists – banker Muhammad Yunus, a native of Bangladesh. But few at the time really knew who he is – and, most importantly for us, his impact on the Brazilian market.

Yunus is known by many as the “social banker”, offering all kinds of financial assistance to needy populations through the company he created in 1983, the Grameen Bank. In it, lines of credit are offered to entrepreneurs from third world countries at conditions and interest rates that, normally, more traditional banks tend to refuse.

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Image shows Muhammad Yunus greeting International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach during a ceremony held in 2020
Muhammad Yunus (left) greeting International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach during a ceremony held in 2020. Image: Greg Martin/COI

According to Muhammad Yunus himself, his bank has already lent more than US$ 12 billion (R$ 62,45 billion) and has 97% of its client portfolio made up of women.

This more progressive perception was also reflected in Brazil: in 2011, the executive expanded his business here, through the creation of Yunus Negócios Sociais, a capital acceleration company that seeks to unite small entrepreneurs with potential investors, having helped companies such as Moradigna, Beone Technologies, Assobio Soluções Socioambientals, Renovatio and MaturiJobs.

Muhammad Yunus and sport

Yunus was unable to attend the opening of games in Tokyo, preferring to participate via a video call from his home in Dhaka, capital of Bangladesh.

Yunus' involvement with sport has a similar guideline to his banking and investment pillars: helping those who have the ability, but not the access. Through Yunus Sports Hub, a brand also created by him, the idea is to foster social initiatives focused on sports, promoting access for low-income audiences to participate in business in the field.

“In sports, social businesses have a unique opportunity to initiate change,” says an excerpt describing the company's mission on its official website. “As Professor Yunus stated in his IOC opening speech at the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, 'sport is powerful because it is basic to us human beings.'

Roughly speaking, Yunus Sports Hub offers practically the same products as Grameen Bank – investment, business incubation, training, consulting and venture building, for example – but aimed at sport development.

The brand has put Bangladesh in the eyes of the world – even considering that, in sporting terms, the small Asian country does not have much expression, as it has never won even a medal in its history.

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