GENEVA: The important role of sport as the “low-cost high-impact tool par excellence for public health” was highlighted by the President of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, in a keynote address at the annual assembly of the World Health Organization in Geneva.

The IOC and WHO have extended a cooperation agreement, which was signed in May 2020, until the end of December 2025.

Bach said: “The theme of this World Health Assembly – ‘All for Health, Health for All’ – is a timely call for collective action. Addressing global health challenges is a team effort. The world of sport is ready to be a part of this team to build healthy and resilient communities everywhere.

“I for once will dare to suggest a humble addition to your well-selected theme today: ‘All for Health, Health for All… Sport for All’.”

During his address, the IOC president stressed the strong collaboration between the IOC and WHO, and reiterated his appreciation to everyone at WHO, particularly Director-General Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, for their guidance, reassurance and support during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bach added: “The pandemic made it crystal clear how important sport is for our physical and mental health. Sport can save lives.

“Obesity, cardiovascular predispositions and other non-communicable diseases were the reason for the vast majority of mortality during the pandemic. For all these diseases and predispositions, sport is an excellent tool for prevention. This is precisely what WHO and the IOC addressed through our joint campaigns like ‘Healthy Together’ and ‘Let’s Move’ – getting millions of people to stay strong and active when life as we knew it ground to a halt,” Bach explained.

President Bach also mentioned how the IOC and WHO took their cooperation to “a new level” when it came to organising two editions of the Olympic Games during the pandemic.

“It is no exaggeration to say that without WHO, and in particular without our great friend Dr Tedros, the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 and the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 would not have taken place in a safe way,” the IOC President said.

“Thanks to the comprehensive countermeasures and vaccination programmes that we developed together with WHO, we could make these Olympic Games safe for everyone – and without a single recorded transmission from the participants to host communities.”

Following the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, the IOC awarded Dr Tedros the Olympic Order, and honoured WHO, as an organisation, with the Olympic Cup for 2021.

Following the success of Let’s Move, which was launched on Olympic Day 2023 and inspired more than 15 million people to embrace the joy of movement and active healthy lifestyles, the campaign will be launched again in June ahead of the Olympic Games Paris 2024 , with the high point on Olympic Day on 23 June. This year’s campaign, the theme of which is “Let’s Move and Celebrate”, will encourage people around the world to “warm up” for the Olympic Games and share their own “celebration moves” to inspire and support their favourite athletes on the road to Paris 2024.

The campaign video highlighting the impressive activations that took place last year was shown to the World Health Assembly participants, with President Bach calling it “one example of the power of the collaboration between WHO and the IOC”.

Bach continued: “When our next ‘Let’s Move’ campaign kicks off on Olympic Day, on 23 June, we will once again inspire people to move for health, getting millions of people around the globe to warm up for the Olympic Games and celebrate the joy of sport.”