In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic that continues to affect people’s lives around the world, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) are strengthening their efforts to promote healthy lifestyles, including physical activity, sport and active recreation, as a tool for health across the globe.
Through the new Cooperation Agreement that was signed today at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, the IOC and WHO are demonstrating their shared commitment both to promoting healthy society through sport, in alignment with Sustainable Development Goal 3 (“Good health and well-being”), and to contributing to the prevention of non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
Over the last few months in the current crisis, we have all seen how important sport and physical activity are for physical and mental health. Sport can save lives,” said IOC President Thomas Bach. “We will benefit from WHO advice when addressing the challenges of the post-coronavirus society, where health will play a much more prominent role in public policies. We look forward to working even closer with WHO. The IOC calls on the governments of the world to include sport in their post-crisis support programmes because of the important role of sport in the prevention of NCDs, but also of communicable diseases.”
He continued: “As we are preparing for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 in a safe environment for all participants, we are happy and grateful that we can continue to rely on the valuable advice of WHO.”
I am pleased to formalise this longstanding partnership with the International Olympic Committee,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “WHO works not only to respond to diseases, but also to help people realise their healthiest lives, and this partnership will do exactly that. Physical activity is one of the keys to good health and well-being.”
WHO was instrumental in sharing technical advice with the IOC during the discussions that led to the postponement of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, and continues to give advice as it gathers additional knowledge and understanding of COVID-19.
The IOC and sports organisations recently benefited from WHO guidelines on mass gatherings, aiming specifically to provide additional support to sports event organisers and host countries in developing a risk-assessment process, identifying mitigation activities and making an informed evidence-based decision on hosting any sporting events. The guidelines can be found here.
As part of the new agreement, the IOC and WHO will continue to find synergies and act in concert to promote healthy lifestyles and grassroots sports activities worldwide, as well as fight physical inactivity. Physical inactivity is a major risk factor for NCDs such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and obesity, which cause millions of deaths worldwide every year. In that specific area, WHO is guided by the Global Action Plan on Physical Activity 2018-2030, with a target of a 15 per cent relative reduction in the global prevalence of physical inactivity in adults and adolescents by 2030.
The agreement will also allow the two organisations to work on new projects addressing emerging issues such as mental health.
In the context of the Olympic Games, the agreement will aim to strengthen the health component and legacy of the Olympic Games and Youth Olympic Games, in particular by addressing mental health, water quality and air pollution, in addition to emergencies and health security.
The key objectives of the collaboration are as follows:
- Objective 1: Joint action to support communications and advocacy for health and physical activity
- Objective 2: Align policy to strengthen the support on NCD prevention and healthier lifestyles through sport
- Objective 3: Strengthen the health preparedness and legacy of the Olympic Games
- Objective 4: Strengthen health promotion, policy and action through the Olympic Movement
- Objective 5: Support and strengthen collaboration on NCD prevention and physical activity promotion between the health and sports sectors
The IOC and WHO have enjoyed a longstanding partnership since 1984, when the first MoU was signed. This partnership has led to numerous joint initiatives and collaborative projects aiming to promote healthy lifestyles and grassroots sports activities worldwide and fight physical inactivity, as a major risk factor for non-communicable diseases.
The International Olympic Committee is a not-for-profit independent international organisation made up of volunteers, which is committed to building a better world through sport. It redistributes more than 90 per cent of its income to the wider sporting movement, which means that every day the equivalent of 3.4 million US dollars goes to help athletes and sports organisations at all levels around the world.