STOCKHOLM - European royals, U.S. celebrities, 6,000 schoolchildren and thousands of honorary guests gathered in Oslo and Stockholm on Wednesday to celebrate the winners of the 2014 Nobel Prizes. The centre of attention was the youngest-ever Nobel prize winner, 17-year-old Pakistani Malala Yousafzai. Also honoured was French writer Patrick Modiano and scientists from the U.S., Japan, Norway and France. Here are some highlights from the two Nobel Prize award ceremonies, held in Stockholm and Oslo.
Malala's acceptance speech at Oslo City Hall was delivered with a powerful sometimes trebling voice. "I had two options," she said of her life after being shot in the head by a Taliban gunman in her homeland more than two years ago. "One was to remain silent and wait to be killed. And the second was to speak up and then be killed. I chose the second one. I decided to speak up." She said the terrorists tried to stop her and her friends, but that their bullets could not win. "We survived. And since that day, our voices have only grown louder."
"Let this be the last time that a child remains out of school," she said. "And let us build a better future right here, right now."
The 60-year-old, who shared the Peace Prize with Malala, gave up a promising career as an electrical engineer in India in 1980. In his speech, he said he was angered when the father of a boy who was polishing shoes at the gates of the building where he started school said his son would not go to school because "we are born to work."
"His answer made me angry. It still makes me angry. As a child I had a vision of tomorrow, a vision that the cobbler boy is sitting with me in my classroom. Now that tomorrow has become today. ... Today is the time for every child to have the right to life, right to freedom, right to health, right to education, right to safety, right to dignity and right to peace."
New York banker Christopher O'Neill, who married Swedish Princess Madeleine in 2013, attended the award ceremony, as did the fiancee of Prince Carl Philip, Sofia Hellqvist. She, a former reality star known for posing in men's magazines, wore a beautiful crimson evening gown. Neither sat on the stage during the prize ceremony with King Carl XVI Gustaf, Queen Silvia, Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel. In previous years all the royal children were on the stage, but with all the partners attending this year, organizers feared a royal crowd risked outshining the laureates.
In the Swedish capital, the traditional Nobel Prize Concert was held Tuesday at the Stockholm Concert Hall, featuring Beethoven's Symphony No. 7, a scene from Tchaikovsky's "Eugene Onegin" and Swedish composer Rolf Martinsson's trumpet concerto Bridge. The Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra was conducted by Latvian-born Andris Nelsons, the newly appointed music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
The Nobel Peace Prize Concert will be hosted on Thursday by U.S. Grammy and Golden Globe Award winning actress and singer Queen Latifah in the Oslo Spektrum Arena. An array of artists will perform to more than 6,000 guests in a broadcast to over 100 countries. This year's performers include U.S. singer Steven Tyler, Pakistani musician Ustad Rahat Fateh Ali Kahan, British singer Laura Mvula and Girls of the World , who will perform "I am Malala."
Decorations at a Nobel Prize ceremony don't involve balloons or paper garlands. When the winners of the Nobel Prizes in literature and sciences received their prizes from Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf at the Stockholm Concert Hall they did so against a backdrop of 20,000 flowers, prepared by 12 florists. Following tradition, the flowers in deep red, cerise and pink nuances — included roses, carnations and hortensias. They had been flown in from the Italian city of San Remo, where prize founder Alfred Nobel died on Dec. 10, 1896.
A POLITICAL NOD
The usually scientific opening address at the Stockholm award ceremony took a political turn with Professor Carl-Henrik Heldin's mention of nationalistic tendencies in society. He noted "some quite scary" similarities between today and the times of prize founder Alfred Nobel in the late 19th century. In an apparent reference to the rise of far-right groups across Europe, he said both were eras "with anti-intellectual and xenophobic tendencies and with a military buildup coupled with ruthless nationalistic actions and obvious threats to peace."
Matti Huuhtanen contributed to this report from Helsinki.