WHO director general Dr Tedros Adhanom met with Thomas Bach at Beijing 2022 where vaccine equity was high on the agenda ©IOC

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach and World Health Organization (WHO) director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus have met during the 2022 Winter Olympic Games here, with the meeting billed as an opportunity to discuss further collaboration between the organisations.

The IOC revealed that the meeting took place after Tedros ran with the Olympic Torch on Friday (February 4), the day of the Opening Ceremony.

The WHO official has been present at the last two Olympic Games, where he has sought to promote vaccine equity.

Tedros was invited to give the keynote speech at the IOC Session in Tokyo last year prior to the re-arranged Summer Olympic Games last year, where he expressed hope the Games could "ignite the solidarity and determination" needed to end the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The Olympics are about, hope, solidarity, unity and peace," Tedros said.

"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."

The WHO has also partnered with sporting organisations such as the International Paralympic Committee and FIFA during the pandemic, promoting sport and healthy lifestyles.

The IOC said Bach used to meeting to confirm the IOC’s support to the WHO goal of achieving 70 per cent vaccination in each country.

"We have been given a way forward with a safe and effective vaccine that can help save precious lives," Bach said.

"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."

Beijing 2022 is the second consecutive Games to be held during a pandemic, with a closed loop system largely sealing the event off from the rest of the population.

Organisers expected 150,000 spectators from outside the closed loop to be invited to watch events during the Games, with 15,000 claimed to have been in attendance at the Opening Ceremony at the Bird’s Nest Stadium.

The Omicorn variant of COVID-19 has complicated preparations for the Games, while several athletes have missed competitions or have seen their hopes jeopardised by positive cases in the build-up to their competitions.

The IOC and WHO initially partnered in 1984, when a Memorandum of Understanding was signed to promote public health.

The organisations say the partnership has grown with projects run to promote grassroots sport and healthy lifestyles for all, and leveraging WHO expertise in health emergencies, mass gatherings and water quality in the context of the Olympic Games.

A new cooperative agreement was signed in 2020 as well as a "Healthy Together" partnership co-signed by the United Nations, which called for collective action to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The IOC last month released a video featuring 20 Olympians and Paralympians, who called on world leaders and decision-makers to ensure free and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.

The IOC said WHO experts were also involved in developing the COVID-19 countermeasures for both Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022. 

Bach and Tedros also discussed projects, starting in Paris 2024, to address emerging issues such as the prevalence of non-communicable diseases.

The organisations said non-communicable diseases are often closely linked to unhealthy lifestyles and a lack of physical activity.

The WHO estimates that non-communicable diseases kill 41 million people annually and account for 71 per cent of all deaths around the world.