The World Health Organisation (WHO) and Qatar on Monday launched a new multi-year collaboration to make the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, a beacon for physical and mental health promotion, and also a model for ensuring future mega sport events are healthy and safe.
The three-year joint project, titled 'Healthy 2022 World Cup – Creating Legacy for Sport and Health', was announced at a joint ceremony at WHO’s headquarters, in Geneva, by Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghrebreyesus, Qatar's Minister of Public Health HE Dr Hanan Mohamed al-Kuwari, Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy Secretary (SC) General HE Hassan al-Thawadi, FIFA President Gianni Infantino, and WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean Dr Ahmed al-Mandhari.
In a statement Monday, the SC explained that WHO and Qatar, working closely with FIFA, will undertake joint activities to place the promotion of healthy lives, health security and physical and mental wellbeing at the heart of world football’s pinnacle event, being held from November 21 to December 18 next year.
In addition, another critical goal of the project is to set and translate the best practices in health promotion, security and safety, as practised at the FIFA World Cup 2022, for use at major sporting events around the world.
“I would like to thank Minister al-Kuwari and Qatar for teaming up with WHO to make the FIFA World Cup 2022 a role model for healthy sporting events,” said Dr Tedros. “WHO is committed to working with Qatar and FIFA to leverage the global power of football to help people lead the healthiest and safest lives possible.”
Dr Tedros added: “As the Qatar tournament will be the first FIFA World Cup held during the pandemic, the event offers a unique opportunity to show how sport can promote health now and provide a lasting legacy for organising healthy sporting events as the world recovers from the pandemic."
Dr al-Kuwari said: "Qatar is proud to be the first country from the Middle East to host the FIFA World Cup. But our goal is not just to hold a successful sporting event – it is also to hold the healthiest sporting event possible. It is for this reason we have teamed up with WHO."
“We look forward to working closely with WHO, FIFA and other partners on this new project to deliver a fantastic, healthy World Cup and leave a legacy that supports the staging of healthy, sustainable and safe mega sporting events in the future.”
The main themes the project will focus on are supporting people to practise healthy lifestyles, including through physical activity, healthy diets and tobacco cessation and control; promoting health security, with a focus on ensuring mass gatherings and events are safe; and advocacy and awareness-raising for health.
Al-Thawadi said: “Since being awarded the rights to host the FIFA World Cup 2022, we have carefully considered the importance of leaving sustainable and transformative social legacies that improve lives – in Qatar, within our region and around the world. With the experience of the pandemic, the importance of utilising this platform to build awareness and improve public health has significantly increased.”
“This partnership with WHO will serve to elevate and enhance our existing efforts and contribute to ensuring that our region’s first FIFA World Cup maximises its potential for social impact and serves as a benchmark for future events of a similar nature.”
Infantino praised the new partnership between Qatar and WHO, and said it built on the successful partnership FIFA and WHO signed in 2019 through a memorandum of understanding.
“In these past two years, FIFA and WHO have doubled our efforts to promote the importance of physical and mental health to millions of people everywhere, especially in light of the global challenges from COVID-19. We are committed to working with the world of football, from elite players to grassroots teams, to advance the message of health for all. WHO’s new project with Qatar aligns perfectly with FIFA’s collaboration with both sides. Working together, we will harness the power of sports as a catalyst for a safer and healthier world."
Dr al-Mandhari said the new partnership between WHO and Qatar would play a powerful role in spreading advice and messages throughout the region on the benefits of sports for health. In addition, it will help promote the goal of achieving “Health for All By All,” which is at the heart of WHO’s strategic focus for the region, in line with Vision 2023.
“Sport offers one of the most effective ways for people to lead healthy lives. WHO looks forward to working closely with Qatar to use the platform that sporting events offer to bring people together and foster solidarity, while at the same time promoting healthier habits, from diet to physical activity, for people of all ages, genders and cultures.”
The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the vital importance of physical activity for mental and physical health. According to WHO, up to 5mn deaths a year could be averted if the global population was more active. WHO statistics show that one in four adults, and four out of five adolescents, do not get enough physical activity. Globally, this is estimated to cost $54bn in direct healthcare and another $14bn to lost productivity.
At a time when the pandemic has deepened vulnerabilities and inequities, it is more important than ever to ensure everyone of all ages and abilities can have access to safe sports, the SC statement added.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghrebreyesus, WHO Director-General and HE the Minister of Public Health Dr Hanan Mohamed Al Kuwari after signing the agreement.