International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach and World Health Organization (WHO) director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus have signed a new Memorandum of Understanding yesterday in Geneva.
The two organisations have worked together since 1984, resulting in a number of joint initiatives to promote healthier lifestyles and grassroots sporting activities.
Further cooperation was prompted after the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, which forced the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games until 2021.
“This new Memorandum of Understanding enables us to work together across five key areas,” Ghebreyesus said.
“These are the advocacy for physical activity, preventing non-communicable disease and promoting healthier lifestyles, strengthening the health legacy of major sport events such as the Olympic and Paralympic Games, promoting grassroots and community sport programmes to reach and encourage participation of more girls, older people, and people living with disability, and strengthening the collaboration between Ministries of Sport and Health.”
During the signing ceremony, which took place in Geneva under social distancing guidelines, Bach thanked the WHO for its “most valuable advice” regarding the postponement of Tokyo 2020.
He also confirmed the IOC was still working with the agency to ensure the Games are held safely next year.
There have been concerns that competition will not be able to take place if a vaccine is not yet available, but Bach claimed they would “adapt to the safety needs.”
“We have established in the IOC one principle – that the Games must be organised in a safe environment for everybody,” he said.
“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.
“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.”
As coronavirus cases rose in March, the Olympics were rescheduled to July 23 to August 8 2021, set to be followed by the Paralympics from August 24 to September 5.
More than 4.6 million people have now been infected by coronavirus worldwide, resulting in more than 300,000 deaths.