Recognising the power of sport in advancing society, 118 Member States of the United Nations (UN) have called for all States to include sport and physical activity in their recovery plans post COVID-19 and to integrate sport and physical activity into national strategies for sustainable development.
In a Joint Statement on the impact of COVID-19 on sport, physical activity and well-being, as well as its effects on social development, signatories praised the valuable contribution of sport and physical activity in promoting many important areas, such as: education, sustainable development, peace, cooperation, solidarity, fairness, social inclusion and health.
“In this time of hardship, despite our many urgent priorities, sport and physical activity remain essential for our well-being. They benefit both our physical and mental health and help mitigate stress and anxiety,” the statement says.
The governments praised the efforts undertaken by all stakeholders, such as international and national sports federations and entities, that have already begun working on rescheduling, when feasible, sporting events.
“We are convinced that the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020, as well as all postponed events, will have, when convened, a very special place in the history of sport. They will stand as a symbol of human unity and solidarity in the aftermath of this pandemic. We commend highly the strenuous efforts exerted by the relevant stakeholders with regard to the postponement,” the statement continued.
The Joint Statement, initiated by the Co-Chairs of the Group of Friends of Sport for Sustainable Development, Isabelle Picco and Alya Ahmed Saif Al-Thani, respectively Permanent Representatives of the Principality of Monaco and of the State of Qatar to the UN, supports the findings of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) Policy Brief #73 on “The Impact of COVID-19 on sport, physical activity and well-being and its effects on social development”.
This support for sport comes in addition to that received recently by the European Commission, which invited Member States of the European Union (EU) to use EU funds to mitigate the negative consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on the sports sector. In addition to this, the Sport Ministers of the 27 EU Member States recently adopted conclusions in which they underlined the importance of the role of sport for societies during the COVID-19 crisis. The conclusions stressed the need for support of the sports sector during the recovery phase, while also calling for solidarity among the sport movement.
“The post-coronavirus world will benefit from sport”
Addressing a UN virtual dialogue a few weeks ago, IOC President Thomas Bach said: “The post-coronavirus world will benefit from sport. And we are ready to contribute to shaping it, we are ready to make the world a better place through sport,” while calling upon governments of the world to include sport in their post-coronavirus support programmes because of the essential contribution that sport brings to society.
“Sport is contributing to the recovery from the crisis and to creating a better world on the health, the social and the economic side,” commented President Bach. “Sport creates jobs, generates business activity, plays a significant economic role in many countries, all of which are vital elements as countries look to reopen their economies.”
“Sport also gives hope, and the postponed Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 will be even more a symbol of universality, solidarity and resilience,” Bach said.
Staying Healthy Together
In March 2020, the IOC launched a digital campaign “#StayStrong, #StayActive, #StayHealthy” to promote the importance of physical activity when many countries around the world started enforcing a lockdown in order to prevent and contain the infection. The campaign showcased athletes who found a way to stay active, creatively inventing new exercises to be done at home and sharing this with their fans. On the occasion of Olympic Day on 23 June 2020, the world’s biggest digital workout introduced half a billion people to #StayActive.
The importance of staying active is at the heart of the Memorandum of Understanding signed in May between the IOC and the World Health Organization (WHO), focusing on the promotion and advocacy for health through sport and physical activity. The two organisations also teamed up with the United Nations to launch the campaign “Healthy Together”, to spotlight the collective effort and global collaboration needed to stay healthy and reduce the spread and impact of COVID-19.