By Tom Degun at Westminster in London

Clive Owen_Feb_5February 5 - Golden Globe and BAFTA Award-winning actor Clive Owen (pictured) is to host the 2012 Laureus World Sports Awards, the international sporting calendar's most premier honours event, in Central Hall, here tomorrow evening, it has been announced.

The 47-year-old from Coventry, who has starred in numerous Hollywood blockbusters including Sin City, Children of Men, Inside Man and King Arthur, takes over the role from American actor Kevin Spacey who successfully hosted the 2009 and 2010 Laureus World Sports Awards, both of which took place at the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi.

The glittering event takes place just under six months before the start of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympics Games.

A number of sporting icons are set to be attendance.

"I think the Laureus World Sports Awards coming to London is just a fabulous occasion.," said Sebastian Coe, the chairman of London 2012 who is a member of the Laureus Academy.

"Laureus is a global organisation and it is absolutely right that we showcase the work we are doing in as many big cities as we possibly can, but of course having the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games in London in the same year makes a fabulous synergy."

Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic, fresh from his astonishing Australian Open against Rafael Nadal last month, will be favourite for the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year award.

He faces a shortlist of sprinter Usain Bolt, cyclist Cadel Evans, footballer Lionel Messi, basketball player Dirk Nowitzki and Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel.

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Kenyan long distance athlete Vivian Cheruiyot (pictured above), who won the 5,000 and 10,000 metres at the World Championships in Daegu last year, is a leading contender for the Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year award.

Also shortlisted are skier Maria Höfl-Riesch, sprinter Carmelita Jeter, tennis player Petra Kvitova, footballer Homare Sawa and golfer Yani Tseng.

After winning the 2011 Rugby World Cup, the New Zealand rugby team is favourite for the Laureus World Team of the Year award in a category featuring Barcelona, the Dallas Mavericks, the England cricket team, Japan's women's football team and the Red Bull motor racing team.

Jamican sprinter Yohan Blake is front-runner for the Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year award after winning unexpectedly the 100m title last year.

He faces competition from athletes Mo Farah and Oscar Pistorius, tennis players Kvitova and Li Na and golfer Rory McIlroy.

Sprint star Pistorius is also shortlisted for the Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability award after becoming the first amputee athlete to compete at the able-bodied World Athletics Championships.

Pistorius faces tough competition from swimmer Daniel Dias, sprinter Terezinha Guilhermina, tennis player Esther Vergeer, wheelchair race David Weir and biathlete and cross country skiier Irek Zaripov.

Eric Abidal_lifts_Champions_League_trophy_Wembley_May_2011_resized
After recovering from cancer, Barcelona and French defender Eric Abidal (pictured above lifting Champions League trophy at Wembley last year) is tipped for the Laureus World Comeback of the Year prize although he faces a strong field, including golfers Darren Clarke and Sergio Garcia, the Crusaders rugby team, hurdler Liu Xiang and the Queensland Reds rugby team.

Finally, in the Laureus World Action Sportsperson of the Year category, Britain BMX star Jamie Bestwick is shortlisted alongside windsurfer Philip Köster, surfers Carissa Moore and and Kelly Slater and snowboardersTravis Rice and Shaun White.

The winners will be chosen by the 47 Laureus World Sports Academy members, comprising the world's greatest sportsmen and sportswomen, including Sir Bobby Charlton, Cathy Freeman, Jack Nicklaus and Vivian Richards.

"Sport is close to the hearts of everyone in London and the UK and that makes me very excited that the Awards are being held here," said double Olympic 400m hurdles champion and chairman of the Laureus Academy Edwin Moses.

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

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