Showtime at sport's Oscars
I've just flirted with Croatian high jumper Blanka Vlasic (not sure she noticed), quizzed actor Morgan Freeman on the rules of rugby (he hasn't a clue) and watched actor Kevin Spacey do a surprisingly funny version of Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feeling" (even former Australian cricketer Steve Waugh laughed).
This is not a typical sports news gig. Nobody has gone bust, failed a drugs test or had their lottery funding taken away from them. And there are far too many sequins. This is show time at the Laureus World Sports Awards and I am the scruffiest individual on the red carpet.
To be honest, the last time I did something like this I managed to insult a nation by suggesting the 2006 Ryder Cup's opening ceremony was a bit, well, overblown. I would I like to apologise to Ireland for that outrageous slur, the K Club classic was a local dignitary with a ribbon and a pair of scissors compared to "sport's Oscars" in Abu Dhabi.
Not that I'm criticising. These awards are the wrap party for another spectacular year of using sport to change lives around the globe. It's easy to be cynical and sarcastic about famous people congratulating themselves but what nobody can deny is the sheer amount of good these guys do when they put their heads together.
Did you ever think you'd see Rafael Nadal take on actor Kevin Spacey at ping pong? Photo: Getty
Sixteen years ago, a few sports fans, who happen to hold senior positions at posh carmaker Daimler and luxury brands giant Richemont, were watching the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa and wondering what other type of person could achieve the nation-building heroics Nelson Mandela and the Springboks team were pulling off in front of them.
They correctly decided Mandela is a bit of a one-off as a politician so they started thinking of ways they could persuade sports stars to break down entrenched divides in society, bring hope to the hopeless and inspire children to better themselves - or at least stop eating crisps and turn the television off for an hour.
It took them a few more years to get their idea up and running but the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation has been dishing out big cheques to community projects from Canning Town to Cape Town for over a decade - and the awards ceremony that helps bring those cheques in has got bigger and bigger and bigger. So big, in fact, only a hotel like Abu Dhabi's Emirates Palace could hold it now.
This place was built for the Emir, apparently, but he kept getting lost in the east wing so he gave it to "his people", the kind of people who want a gold bar dispenser where a cash machine would normally suffice.
Sorry, I'm being cynical again. This night deserves better than that and you cannot fault Abu Dhabi for its ambition. Lovely weather, too. Which brings me to some of the fringe benefits of getting an invite to this gig.
I've watched heavyweight boxer Wladimir Klitschko hook an eight-iron 200 yards at the Saadiyat Beach Golf Club (it's on one of the new islands that Abu Dhabi's cab drivers haven't heard of yet), seen Chelsea legend Gianfranco Zola play one more time and listened attentively as a sun-kissed Sir Bobby Charlton explained just why football is still the greatest game in the world, never mind what some of them earn. I missed 10-time world champion surfer Kelly Slater sand-boarding but it's been a pretty good couple of days so let's not be greedy.
As for the awards ceremony, the show was surprisingly (I'm a cynic, remember) entertaining, singer Ronan Keating left nothing in the tank with a heartrending performance of "When You Say Nothing At All" and the prizes all went to very worthy winners.
Martin Kaymer's USPGA win and claim to being probably the best golfer in the world right now trumped Louis Oosthuizen's stunning victory at St Andrews in the 'Breakthrough of the Year' award, while it is difficult to really argue with Spain getting the 'Team of the Year' award for adding the World Cup to their 2008 European crown. As for Valentino Rossi, the Italian's total disregard for pain made him a slightly insane winner of the 'Comeback of the Year' gong.
My long-lost cousin Kelly won a third Laureus award in the 'Action Sportsperson of the Year' section and then told me he had surfed with 100s of sharks and hardly any of them have tried to bite him. Europe's Ryder Cup team received the 'Spirit of Sport' prize, Verena Bentele got a well deserved nod in the disabled category and American Alpine skier Lindsey Vonn slid smokingly to the 'Sportswoman of the Year' prize.
Her partner in the champions dance at the after-show party on the beach would have been Rafa Nadal but the fact she looked like she was somewhere cold in her video-linked acceptance speech (above) suggested she was not here. Dubai's Snowdome, perhaps.
That's a shame because Nadal, named 'Sportsman of the Year' is so ridiculously nice in person it is almost impossible to equate him with those blacksmith's biceps and brawler's refusal to give in. Even Colin Montgomerie admitted he was excited about sitting near the sublime Spaniard.
The evening's only other business was to make awesome oarsman Sir Steve Redgrave and Aussie motorbike hard nut Mick Doohan the 47th and 48th members of the Laureus Academy, a very select band of brothers and sisters.
Oh, and they gave Zinedine Zidane a lifetime achievement award for doing things with a football in almost every game he played that the rest of us would struggle to manage just once. Either that or it was for his stellar efforts in helping to bring the World Cup to the region in 2022.
Aggghhhh, stop with the cynicism. He's a legend, Spacey's a legend and the supermodel presenter from Germany stood next to me on the red carpet is definitely a legend. Well done, Laureus. It was one helluva show. Can I come back next year?