Truly an international hero, Thorpe speaks French fluently, and in the early 2000s was under consideration as a possible youth ambassador for the United Nations. He received the American International Athlete Trophy (formerly the Jesse Owens Award) in 2002.
As an honorary ambassador for tourism to Japan, he is ranked among the top three most recognized faces by the Japanese public, with his image appearing on Japanese buses and on giant video screens in bars. Too young to drink alcohol himself, Thorpe's personal interests veer toward child victims of terminal illness and other non-frivolous social causes. He is the co-founder the Ian Thorpe Foundation For Youth Trust, a program for children with life-threatening illness.
In addition to television guest appearances, Thorpe was seen as himself in a documentary, Olympics Exposed with Andrew Denton. A modest actor, Thorpe made a guest appearance on his favorite television show, Friends; the episode premiered on November 16, 2000. He is the host of his own cable television show, Undercover Angels, featuring Simone Kessell, Jackie O, and Katie Underwood. In keeping with Thorpe's deep sense of social consciousness, the format of the program provides a means of bringing succor to real people in need. His media manager, David Flaskas, stays busy reviewing and fielding offers for Thorpe, who after proving himself among the best swimmers in the world has yet to enter his prime.