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World Health Day: celebrating the positive impact of sport and physical activity in Paris and beyond

8 April 2024 – To mark World Health Day, held annually on 7 April, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is celebrating the positive changes that sport and physical activity have brought to the lives of French citizens thanks to the initiatives linked to the Olympic Games Paris 2024. One of these is Olympic and Paralympic Week (SOP).

The eighth edition, which took place from 2 to 6 April, mobilised two million participants from 11,500 schools across France and involved 200 athletes, a strong testimony of Paris 2024’s lasting legacy.

“Sports participation is an extremely low-cost, high-impact tool to foster active and healthy lives 365 days a year. By living up to the promise of ‘Games wide open’ and mobilising all those involved in sport in France, Paris 2024’s vision has already come to fruition, even before the Games begin.”

– Thomas Bach, IOC President

SOP: bringing sport and education together

SOP is one of the biggest drivers of the Paris 2024 legacy, with this annual event having reached more than five million children and young people in France since 2017. SOP is a joint initiative between the French government, the Paris 2024 Organising Committee, the French National Olympic Committee (CNSOF), the French National Paralympic Committee (CPSF) and school sports federations across the country.

It aims to promote physical activity, use sport as an educational tool, bring the Olympic values to young people, and encourage volunteering and civic engagement.

This year’s SOP was particularly focused on Paris 2024, celebrating the Games and sending support to athletes in France and around the world. The event represents an inspiring entry point to the Olympic and Paralympic Games for many young children, who were this year introduced to various disciplines set to feature at Paris 2024 and learn about the history of the Games.

More than 4,000 children attended the launch event at the Porte de La Chapelle Arena, which will host badminton, Para badminton, rhythmic gymnastics and Para powerlifting during the Games.

Generation 2024: maximising the momentum of Paris 2024

SOP is a powerful programme for mobilising the educational community over a short period, but to fully capitalise on the impact of the Games, there is need for more long-term planning. This is where Generation 2024 comes in.

A joint initiative between Paris 2024 and the Ministry of National Education and Youth, Generation 2024 aims to bring more sport into the daily lives of young people in France. This involves not only practising sport, but also focusing on its culture and values, using it as a catalyst for education and civic engagement.

A key part of Generation 2024 is the introduction of 30 minutes of exercise per day in French schools. Started in September 2020 in primary schools in the Seine-Saint-Denis department, the programme is being rolled out to all 36,500 elementary schools in France. By June 2024, every school taking part will be equipped with a sports kit to facilitate daily physical activity among students.

More than 80 per cent of young people in France do not meet the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s recommendation of 60 minutes of daily physical activity, and this initiative is an important step towards meeting that goal. An independent study validated by the WHO has shown that Generation 2024 is already having a significant impact, with 94 per cent of teachers reporting an improvement in children’s wellbeing. This is in addition to other effects such as increased concentration in the classroom.

Another important aspect of Generation 2024 is active design, which encourages increased physical activity through improved infrastructure planning. This has included the development of new school playgrounds to encourage more mixed-gender exercise. A successful pilot in 2023 involving 200 redesigned playgrounds will now be rolled out to 1,500 facilities across France over the next three years. This forms part of Generation 2024 and the government’s plan to renovate 5,000 sports facilities between 2024 and 2026.

With a few months still to go until the Opening Ceremony, these initiatives are already transforming the lives of young people from kindergarten to university, and ensuring that the Games will have a positive long-term effect on the physical health of the French nation.

Using sport as a catalyst for healthier societies

Paris 2024’s legacy of improving the lifestyles of young people in France reflects the IOC’s wider commitment to use sport as a tool for healthy living across the world. In 2020, this commitment was strengthened when the IOC signed a Cooperation Agreement with the WHO, underlining a joint effort to use sport as a driver for healthy society. The agreement also aligns with Olympism365, the IOC strategy which promotes sport as a key enabler of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

An important example of the IOC’s efforts to use sport as a catalyst for healthy society is Olympic Day, which takes place on 23 June. Created in 1948 to celebrate the establishment of the IOC on the same date in 1894, Olympic Day has since transformed into an event to promote sport and physical activity around the world.

On Olympic Day last year, the IOC launched the “Let’s Move” campaign in conjunction with the WHO. This theme will continue on Olympic Day in 2024, with several Olympians fronting a drive to encourage regular physical activity for everyone. More than 150 National Olympic Committees are expected to host Olympic Day celebrations, with millions of people around the world set to participate.


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