The United Nations and The World Health Organisation have used the opening of the Winter Olympics to highlight the need for the world to drive greater collaboration to fight COVID vaccine inequality and climate change.
The President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Thomas Bach (pic right) and World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (left) met as the Olympic Winter Games in Beijing opened to discuss ways to further strengthen collaboration between their two organisations. The meet came as UN secretary general António Guterres also met Bach and called on the world to embrace the Olympic spirit in the fight to combat global warming.
The meeting between president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Thomas Bachnand World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (left) took place after the WHO director-general ran with the Olympic Torch on the day of the Opening Ceremony, and said: “The Olympics are about, hope, solidarity, unity and peace. Especially hope to end this pandemic. I hope we will achieve the 70 per cent vaccination in each and every country around the world by mid this year and hope the acute phase of the pandemic will be over, so that people will come together like always.”
During the meeting, Bach reaffirmed the IOC’s support for the WHO.
“We have been given a way forward with a safe and effective vaccine that can help save precious lives”, he explained. “Let us all join hands in giving free and equal access to the vaccine for everybody across the world to pledge our collective responsibility to protect those who are the most vulnerable, because everyone on this planet has a right to live a healthy life. We are stronger together when we stand in solidarity and care for each other.”
The IOC and the WHO formalised their collaboration to promote public health with a Memorandum of Understanding in 1984. The partnership has grown since then, resulting in a series of projects promoting grassroots sports and healthy lifestyles for all, and leveraging WHO expertise in health emergency, mass gathering, and water quality in the context of the Olympic Games. The two organisations signed a new Cooperative Agreement in 2020 to strengthen and expand on these dimensions.
It comes as the United Nations said the world needed to adopt the Olympic ideals if it was to effectively tackle climate change.
Guterres explained: “In a moment when we see so many expressions of populism, so many expressions of racism, so many expressions of xenophobia, antisemitism, anti-Muslim hatred, to be here and to be with athletes that come from all cultures, from all countries, from all ethnicities, from all religions, it’s a fantastic message.
He added that competition “does not necessarily mean enmity,” as it can bring countries together to combat COVID-19, climate change, inequality and other global challenges that require more than unity and solidarity.”