IOC and WHO unite further to promote health through sport

IOC President Thomas Bach looks forward to "working even closer with WHO" as he signs new Memorandum of Understanding in Geneva

By Rory Jiwani ·

Sport can save lives.

That was the message from International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach as he and World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus signed a new Memorandum of Understanding at the WHO headquarters in Geneva on Saturday (16 May).

The two organisations have worked together since 1984, leading to numerous joint initiatives to promote healthier lifestyles and grassroots sports activities, and fight physical inactivity through sport.

But the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted further cooperation.

Bach said, "We can see that people with healthy and active lifestyles have much better chances to combat the virus and therefore we are ready to continue to make our contribution to fighting this COVID-19 crisis through sport and the call for a more active society."

"Sport is an extremely low-cost but - as we can see - highly effective tool for health." - IOC President Thomas Bach

Sport can combat the virus - President Bach as IOC strengthen ties with WHO

People with healthy and active lifestyles have much better chances to comba...

Bach also thanked the WHO for the "most valuable advice" they had received concerning the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games by one year, and said he was grateful for their continued assistance ahead of the event.

Responding to questions from journalists via videolink, Bach said, "We have established in the IOC one principle - that the Games must be organised in a safe environment for everybody. This is why we have started with a joint taskforce including the WHO in February this year.

"We are counting on the WHO's support and advice for the time to come so that we can ensure that safe environment for the Games."

He added, "I think now, one year and two months away, is too early to start speculation on different scenarios and what it may need at the time to guarantee this safe environment for all participants. This is why we are working here together and addressing this issue day-by-day and we'll adapt to the safety needs, whatever they will be at the time of the Games."

"Nobody can give you a reliable answer on how the world will look in July 2021, so we have to be vigilant and we have to be patient at the same time to take the right measures to ensure the safe participation of everybody in the Games." - IOC President Thomas Bach

Key Objectives of IOC and WHO Memorandum of Understanding

  • Joint action to support communications and advocacy for health and physical activity
  • Align policy to strengthen the support on NCD prevention and healthier lifestyles through sport
  • Strengthen the health preparedness and legacy of the Olympic Games
  • Strengthen health promotion, policy and action through the Olympic Movement
  • Support and strengthen collaboration on NCD prevention and physical activity promotion between the health and sports sectors

Dr Ghebreyesus said today's MoU "builds on the long-standing relationship between the WHO and IOC".

He added, "By its very nature, sport is about participation, bringing individuals, communities and countries together and bridging cultural and ethical and national divides.

"Sport contributes to health and education, promotes tolerance and respect, and empowers women and young people."

"This MoU is just a piece of paper, but together we can make it a reality that touches the lives of millions of people and helps to create and healthier, safer, fairer world for everyone everywhere." - WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and IOC President Thomas Bach on exercise bikes at MOU signing in Switzerland on 16th May [IOC/Greg Martin]