Cirque du Soleil

Cirque du Soleil is an entertainment empire based in Montreal, Quebec, Canada located in Saint-Michel, and founded in Baie-Saint-Paul in 1984 by two former street performers, Guy Laliberté and Daniel Gauthier.

Initially named Les Échassiers they toured Quebec in 1980 as a performing troupe and encountered financial hardship that was relieved by a government grant in 1983 as part of 450th celebrations of Jacques Cartier's discovery of Canada. Le Grand Tour du Cirque du Soleil was a success in 1984 and after securing a second year of funding Laliberté hired Guy Caron from the National Circus School to recreate it as a "proper circus". No ring and no animals helped make Cirque du Soleil the modern circus ("Cirque Nouveau" / New Circus) that it is today. Each show is a synthesis of circus styles from around the world and has its own central theme and storyline which brings the audience into the performance by having no curtains, continuous live music and performers change the props. After critical and financial successes (Los Angeles Arts Festival) and failures in the late 1980s, Nouvelle Expérience was created with the direction of Franco Dragone that not only made Cirque profitable by 1990 but allowed it to create new shows.

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s Cirque expanded rapidly and went from one show with 73 employees in 1984 to currently 3,500 employees from over 40 countries doing fifteen shows touring every continent and has an estimated annual revenue exceeding US$600 million. The multiple permanent Las Vegas shows alone play to more than 9,000 people a night - 5% of the city's visitors - adding to the 70+ million people who have experienced Cirque. In 2000, Laliberté bought out Gauthier and with 95% ownership has continued to expand the brand.

Several more shows are in development around the world, along with a television deal, women's clothing line and perhaps in other mediums such as spas, restaurants and nightclubs. Cirque du Soleil also produces a small number of private and corporate events each year (past clients have been the royal family of Dubai and the 2007 Super Bowl).

Cirque's creations have been awarded numerous prizes and distinctions, including Bambi, Rose d'Or, three Gemini Awards and four Primetime Emmy Awards. In 2004, Interbrand's poll of brand names with the highest global impact ranked Cirque du Soleil as number 22.

Matthew Pinsent

In 1992 Matthew graduated in Geography from St Catherine's College, Oxford, where he was President of the Oxford Rowing Club. He took part in the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race in 1990 and 1991, when Oxford beat Cambridge by substantial distances.

Also in 1992, at the age of only 21, Matthew Pinsent had his first taste of Olympic success, when in a Coxless Pair with partner Sir Steve Redgrave, he won the Gold Medal at the Barcelona Olympics. Prior to that Olympic win he and Redgrave had enjoyed an unbeaten international season, and it was already obvious that Matthew was developing into one of the world's greatest oarsmen.

At the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 the Pinsent and Redgrave duo won another Gold Medal and throughout the nineties their outstanding combination also brought them 7 World Championship Gold's.

Their unbroken run of successes continued through to the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney when Pinsent, again with Redgrave (now in a Coxless Four with James Cracknell and Tim Foster) again triumphed earning Pinsent his 3rd Olympic Gold Medal. The Race in which he did it was voted ‘Britain's Greatest Sporting Moment' and the crew secured themselves a very special place in the heart of the nation.

After Sydney, Matthew formed a seemingly invincible Coxless Pair partnership with James Cracknell MBE. Undefeated throughout 2001, they went on to complete a unique feat in the history of rowing, by winning the Coxless Pair at the World Championships in Lucerne, only two hours after winning the Coxed Pairs.

In the 2002 World Championships in Seville they defended their Coxless Pairs title, beating an experienced Australian crew who had beaten them in Lucerne earlier in the year and in the process breaking the world record by 4 seconds.

In 2003 an extremely uncharacteristic "bad day at the office" in the World Championship final meant that for the first time in 11 years Matthew ended the year without a gold medal.

On Saturday 21st August 2004 at the Athens Olympic Games, Matthew Pinsent CBE entered Olympic history. In one of the classic sporting moments of all time, he led the Great Britain Coxless four to victory in the Canadian World Champions by only eight one hundredths of a second. The GB crew of Matthew, James Cracknell, Ed Coode and Steve Williams competed for the lead with Canada throughout the 2000 metre race and with 200 metres to go the Canadians took the lead. However, in traditional fashion Matthew increased the stroke rate and the British boat clawed back the lead to win by inches. At the end none of the crew knew who had won…until the roar of the British supporters confirmed victory.

The crew dedicated their boat and race to Alex Partridge whose freak injury in July denied him from being part of the Four. In the aftermath, Matthew Pinsent was emotionally and physically drained. After a year of highs and lows, it was the perfect response to the doubters who had wondered if Britain could win and if Jurgen Grobler had made a mistake putting Matthew and James Cracknell in the coxless four.

Matthew is an outstanding Motivational and After Dinner Speaker. He has appeared at corporate events for some very prestigious companies such as Canada Life, Nokia, Manulife, Procter & Gamble, IBM, British Telecom, British Airways Nat West, Camelot and Lombard.

Matthew was awarded the MBE in the 1993 New Year's Honours List and the CBE in the New Years Honours list 2000.

Since retiring from rowing, Pinsent has worked for the BBC as a sports bulletin presenter and reporter. He was part of the BBC commentary team at the London 2012 Olympics.

In June 2012, Pinsent rowed on the Gloriana as part of the royal pageant for the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II. He appeared again on the Gloriana the following month, bearing the Olympic torch as it crossed the river Thames.