Prof. Dr Uğur  Erdener

Today is World Health Day. It is normally a day to celebrate the work of key medical staff and remind world leaders of the critical role they play in keeping the world healthy.

Right now, these global health workers are at the forefront of the COVID-19 response, providing high quality, respectful treatment and care in the fight against this horrendous pandemic.

So, as a trained physician with a long-standing career in the medical profession, I fully support this acclaim for my medical colleagues around the world in their critical duty of care for the 1.4 million stricken, to date, by this terrible disease.

I can only urge humankind to listen to the advice and instructions from their national authorities and the WHO: to maintain scrupulous hygiene, adhere to social distancing and, if instructed to do so, to stay at home.

But it is as Chair of the IOC Medical and Scientific Commission that I also have another role to play. As people do adhere to the advice to stay at home, often with work reduced to a minimum, it is so important to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle under tough lockdown conditions. This is critical for the physical and mental wellbeing of all.

Therefore, I urge my colleagues across the Olympic family to encourage their athletes, through the use of digital platforms and channels, to promote exercise at home aligned to a healthy diet, hydration and rest. There are already excellent examples across many sports and nations of good practice in this regard.

Out of this tragedy there is some comfort to take at seeing the world united against the pandemic. Never have the Olympic values of respect and friendship been better exemplified than at this time, despite the constraints of social distancing and self-isolation.

Continuing to exercise at home is of critical importance during the pandemic ©Getty Images
Continuing to exercise at home is of critical importance during the pandemic ©Getty Images

There is no doubt that human ingenuity and our formidable medical science will eventually triumph over COVID-19. But I am also convinced that the role of sport and exercise, together with a healthy lifestyle, within the current restrictions, will help speed up our return to normality.

And as President of the IOC, Thomas Bach, said yesterday:

"We all have every day to find new ways to stand through this crisis.

"There, sport and physical activity can play an important role. 

"An important role for staying strong and for staying healthy, but also to get ready for the day after this crisis, for the day we are all longing for when we can resume our professional and social lives.

"And for the day when we can finally all hug each other again and can play sport together again.

"So, join all the Olympic athletes and me, by staying active, staying strong and staying healthy to be ready for this very day."

As President Bach also recently said, the Olympic flame provides a light at the end of this dark tunnel. As we head in unison towards that light, I urge you all to stay home and stay healthy and stay close together… in a virtual sense, for now.