Muhammad Ali Returns to Louisville to Open New Muhammad Ali Center

International Center Based on Life and Ideals of Ali Aims to Promote Personal Empowerment, Respect, Hope and Peace

LOUISVILLE, Ky., Nov. 18 /PRNewswire/ — Muhammad Ali will be joined by family, friends, colleagues and admirers from 12 countries and 32 states in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky this weekend to celebrate the grand opening of the new Muhammad Ali Center. Based on the iconic life and contributions of the boxer known as “The Greatest” and recent recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award, the Center will offer one-of-a-kind exhibits and programs designed to preserve and share the legacy and ideals of Muhammad Ali, and inspire people worldwide to realize their own “personal greatness.”

The Center will open its doors to the public on November 21, following a series of grand opening events, including a star-studded gala celebrating Ali’s life and accomplishments on Saturday, November 19, and an open-air public dedication and community celebration on Sunday, November 20 at the Belvedere, a plaza adjacent to the Center and overlooking the Ohio River.

“I am an ordinary man who worked hard to develop the talent I was given. I believed in myself and I believe in the goodness of others,” said Muhammad Ali. “Many fans wanted to build a museum to acknowledge my achievements. I wanted more than a building to house my memorabilia. I wanted a place that would inspire people to be the best that they could be at whatever they chose to do, and to encourage them to be respectful of one another.”

Throughout his fabled career, and especially after retiring from the boxing ring, Ali has committed his life to making the world a better place for all people by promoting tolerance and understanding, feeding the hungry, and reaching out to children in need. The Ali Center will continue Ali’s legacy by continuing to promote cultural respect, hope and personal empowerment using the core values of Ali’s life as a guide.

“The opening of the Muhammad Ali Center is the realization of one of Muhammad’s lifelong dreams,” Lonnie Ali said. “Muhammad lives his life in accordance with a set of core values — respect, confidence, conviction, dedication, giving and spirituality. These are the same values that will guide the Muhammad Ali Center in its mission to promote diversity, cultural expression and community spirit.”

A unique visitor experience

An international cultural and educational institution, the Muhammad Ali Center will draw on non-traditional museum experiences, interactive technology, partnering institutions, and most importantly, the ideals of Muhammad Ali to entertain, inspire and teach visitors.

The $80 million project, 93,000 square-foot, six-level Center is both a destination site and an education and communications center whose mission extends beyond its physical walls. Two and one-half levels of exhibits, plus educational initiatives and public programming will encourage visitors of all ages to partake in self-assessment and begin a journey to maximize their own human potential.

“The Muhammad Ali Center is a first-of-its-kind cultural destination, setting an ambitious standard in inspiring, educating and improving the lives of visitors,” said Muhammad Ali Center President and CEO Mike Fox. “The Center is committed to upholding the high standards that Ali lived by, motivating current and future generations to achieve a higher sense of self and purpose while nurturing a respect for others.

“But ultimately, the Ali Center is a center of ideas, not artifacts. Beyond the exhibits, the Center will be a global gathering place where people come — both online and in person — to learn, share and celebrate our commonalities as human beings and formulate ways of advancing humanity today and in the future.”

The Ali Center is truly international — 19 different languages will be incorporated throughout the Center’s exhibits. International voices will be represented through a variety of exhibits, including two that are underwritten by actress Angelina Jolie. Hope and Dream, designed by Korean artist Ik-Joong Kang, is composed of thousands of individual 3″ x 3″ tiles created by children from 141 countries around the world. Global Voices celebrates the spirit of community; it contains art and poems submitted to the Center on the subjects of hopes for the future, people who are special, and wishes for the world.

Contributions to the Center include over $54 million in cash and pledges for the building, exhibitry and pre-opening expenses, and $26 million in in-kind donations for infrastructure on the property.

During the first quarter of its inaugural year, the Muhammad Ali Center will complete its archival library, classrooms, administrative offices and will culminate in the fall of 2006 with the completion of a beautiful bi-level public plaza that will serve as a grand entry point to the Center’s main lobby.

Companies involved in the development of the Muhammad Ali Center include Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners LLP, Lee H. Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership, Bravura Corporation, Formations, Inc, Cortina Productions, Ove Arup and Partners, Cline Bettridge Bernstein Lighting Design, Gilbane Construction, David Crosby and Associates, King Bridgeman Bosse Constructors, Mathis & Sons, Kithcell CEM, Electrosonic Systems, and 2×4 Inc. Susan L. Shaffer Nahmias, Ph. D., is chief curator for the Center.

An iconic life

Over forty years after he burst onto the scene as a gold-medal winner at the 1960 Rome Olympics, Muhammad Ali remains one of the world’s most recognized figures, known and loved around the globe.

Dubbed “Athlete of the Century” by GQ magazine, Muhammad continues to receive accolades for his contribution to sports. He has been named Sports Illustrated’s “Athlete of the Century,” the BBC’s “Sports Personality of the Century,” the World Sports Award’s “World Sportsman of the Century,” and the State of Kentucky’s “Kentuckian of the Century.”

As a boxer, Muhammad brought unprecedented speed and grace to his sport, while his charm and wit changed forever what the public expected a champion to be. His accomplishments in the ring are the stuff of legend — two fights with Sonny Liston, where he proclaimed himself “The Greatest” and proved he was; three epic matches with Joe Frazier; the stunning victory over George Foreman in the Rumble in the Jungle; and dethroning Leon Spinks to become heavyweight champion for an unprecedented third time.

Today, championing the causes of the developing world has become a major focus of Muhammad’s life. He has been instrumental in providing over 232 million meals to the world’s hungry. In addition to his international efforts, Muhammad is equally devoted to helping charities at home.

For his humanitarian efforts, Muhammad has been the recipient of countless awards. In addition to being honored by Amnesty International with their “Lifetime Achievement Award,” the Secretary-General of the United Nations bestowed him with a citation as “United Nations Messenger of Peace.” He was also named the “International Ambassador of Jubilee 2000,” a global organization dedicated to relieving debt in developing nations, and most recently in November 2005, was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award. Other honors include an “Essence Award,” an “XNBA Human Spirit Award” and recognition from the National Urban League, 100 Black Men, Givat Haviva, the Oleander Foundation, The National Conference of Christians and Jews, Time magazine, and former President Jimmy Carter, who cited Muhammad as “Mr. International Friendship.”

Grand opening festivities

Grand opening events for the Muhammad Ali Center have drawn guests and media from across the country and around the world.

On Saturday, November 19, thousands will attend the Grand Opening Gala Presented by YUM! Brands at the Kentucky Center, an event that will ceremoniously mark the “passing of the torch” of Ali’s public works over to the Ali Center. YUM! Brands, based in Louisville, is the world’s largest restaurant company, and is supporting the Ali Center because it is consistent with the organization’s global culture of actively developing a diverse workforce.

Following an elegant dinner, guests will enjoy a special tribute to Muhammad Ali and his lifetime achievements. Among the entertainers, athletes and dignitaries scheduled to make appearances are former President Bill Clinton, Angelina Jolie, Jim Carrey, Lennox Lewis, James Taylor, Hootie & The Blowfish, Wynonna Judd, Bebe & Cece Winans, Bob Costas and Tavis Smiley. Renowned sports broadcaster Bob Costas will emcee a portion of the program.

On Sunday, November 20, thousands of people from the Louisville community and beyond will attend a public dedication and community celebration in honor of Muhammad Ali’s achievements and gifts to his hometown and the world. Guests will include Muhammad and Lonnie Ali, Governor Ernie Fletcher, Louisville Metro Mayor Jerry Abramson, Congresswoman Anne Northup and Senator Mitch McConnell. The celebration will include musical performances by Nappy Roots, a rap group from Kentucky, River City Drum Corps, a youth African drumming group, and poetry readings, songs and dance presentations by Jefferson County Public Schools students and international and local artists.

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