The close and necessary relationship between IOC and WHO is extended for the good of all.
Juan Antonio Belmar
June 9, 2024

Both Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee, and the Director General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, were pleased to continue promoting health and sport with a universal motto: “All for health, health for all… Sport for all”.

A few days ago in Geneva, Switzerland, the last World Health Assembly was held, with the participation of the 194 Member States and distinguished guests or strategic partners in health prevention around the planet. On this occasion, the WHO agreed on a set of key amendments to the International Health Regulations and made a concrete commitment to complete negotiations on an agreement on global pandemic issues within one year, at the latest by the end of 2024. Tedros Adhanom summed up: “These decisive steps have been taken to ensure that all countries have comprehensive and robust systems in place to protect the health and safety of all people, wherever they are, from the risk of future outbreaks and pandemics, and sport is no stranger to this global reality”.

At the assembly, the IOC and WHO announced that their Cooperation Agreement, which was signed in May 2020, has been extended until the end of December 2025. With this agreement, the IOC and WHO are reaffirming their shared commitment to promoting a healthy society through sport, in line with the Sustainable Development Goal (good health and well-being) and contributing to the prevention of non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

Tedros Adhanom and Thomas Bach en 2020. (COI)

In this regard, Thomas Bach himself stressed at the assembly that “the theme of this World Health Assembly – ‘All for Health, Health for All’ – is a timely one for collective action. Addressing global health challenges is a team effort and teamwork. The world of sport is ready to be part of this team in order to build healthy and resilient communities everywhere”. But he did not stop there in his intervention and valued the underlying theme: “Once again I will dare to suggest a humble opinion and I will add with the permission of the assembly to your theme and motto selected for today one more part: All for health, health for all… Sport for all”, receiving a round of applause from all attendees.


The relationship between the IOC and the WHO dates back to 1984, when Juan Antonio Samaranch Torelló was president, a great promoter of giving an integral vision to an “extremely traditional and conservative” International Olympic Committee, alien to linking with other relevant actors of the world society. Samaranch crossed that threshold and turned the IOC into a leading player by opening up, among many other things, to signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the World Health Organization. From that moment, the level of cooperation marked a before and after, covering various fields of action, from the prevention of smoking in sport -being one of the pioneering campaigns-, to lowering the rates of childhood obesity and reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases, cancer or diabetes.

During these 40 years of relationship between the IOC and the WHO, there is a period when this bilateral agreement became more palpable than ever: during the pandemic and the Tokyo 2020+1 Olympic Games, where the level of uncertainty was latent. For this event, the IOC announced the holding of the Games in April after receiving an analysis from the World Health Organization with a rigorous health protocol to be implemented at the Olympic Games. Thomas Bach himself reiterated his thanks: “Those of us in sport have to be grateful for the role played by the WHO in these four decades, it would be unthinkable not to walk together. Its contribution to Olympism, the role of my friend Tedros, is incalculable. It is a cross-cutting, humanitarian organization and, most importantly, together we are going to promote health through sport, we invite you to be part of a society that recognizes the benefits of this activity, not only competitive, but also recreational. You -the WHO- are relevant actors for a healthy society”.


Following the success of the Let’s Move campaign launched for last year’s Olympic Day, which inspired millions of people, this year’s campaign will be repeated in Paris, at the Eiffel Tower itself, where Parisians and tourists will take to the main streets around the Seine River to get moving and invite them to walk and jog with their families. The main motivation is to incorporate physical activity as an asset, in fact, the World Health Organization itself recommends at least 30 minutes a day of aerobic physical activity of moderate or vigorous intensity. The idea is to create habits and behaviors that help to prevent the health of the population.

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