The word ‘Invictus’ means ‘unconquered’. It showcases the fighting spirit of the injured military personnel and what these tenacious men and women can achieve, post injury. The Games harness the power of sport to support recovery and rehabilitation. It has helped to generate a wider understanding and respect for those who serve their country.
The Invictus Games was the brainchild of Prince Harry, a former Apache helicopter pilot who served with the British armed forces in Afghanistan. He was inspired to launch an event after seeing three young soldiers badly injured in Afghanistan in 2008. At the time, Harry was being sent home after the news of his presence in Afghanistan as a British army officer was flashed by the media. This endangered his fellow officers, forcing him to leave, even though he wanted to stay with his soldiers.
While sitting aboard his flight home, Harry saw a coffin of a Danish solider loaded aboard. Also on that flight were three young British soldiers on stretchers in induced comas, wrapped in plastic, with missing limbs and tubes coming out of them.
On a trip to the Warrior Games in the USA in 2013 he saw how the power of sport could motivate the injured soldier physically, psychologically and socially. He formed the Invictus Foundation and hosted the inaugural Invictus Games at London from 10-14 September 2014 which was attended by over 400 competitors from 13 nations. Across four days of intense sporting action, they competed in nine sports in five venues.
Thus was born the Invictus Games, the only international adaptive sporting event for wounded and sick soldiers and veterans.
The Games started with a spectacular Opening Ceremony, with an audience of 5,000 gathering on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for the special military themed opening event. With a fly past from The Red Arrows, displays by The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery and the Queen’s Colour Squadron and performances from bands in the Royal Marines, Army and RAF, the Games kicked off with all pomp and ceremony.
Prince Harry on conclusion of the first Invictus Games said “These Games have shone a spotlight on the ‘unconquerable’ character of service men and women and their families and their ‘Invictus’ spirit. These Games have been about seeing guys sprinting for the finish line and then turning round to clap the last man in. They have been about teammates choosing to cross the line together, not wanting to come second, but not wanting the other guys to either. These Games have shown the very best of the human spirit.”
According to Prince Harry, the 2014 Games were just the beginning of the Invictus story. The competitors showed grit, determination and humour with an absolute refusal to be beaten or be defined by their injuries. There the Invictus spirit was born. He was excited to see the American public supporting these inspirational men and women at the 2016 Invictus Games. Seeing so many men and women competing against each other with huge beaming smiles, made him realise the power of the concept behind Invictus Games. He is of the opinion that sports can make a huge difference and help the injured soldiers fix their lives and those of others around them.
The Invictus Games 2016 was held at Orlando, USA from 08 to 12 May 2016. The games featured 500 competitors from 15 nations: Afghanistan, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, France, Georgia, Germany, Iraq, Italy, Jordan, Netherlands, New Zealand, United Kingdom and the United States of America. First lady Michelle Obama, Britain’s Prince Harry and Academy Award-winning actor Morgan Freeman delivered stirring speeches during the opening ceremony.
Freeman powerfully orated the Invictus Pledge to the crowd to help conclude the ceremony:
Your service sets an example
Your bravery inspires me
It is my honor now
To support and give you courage
To fight for you as you fought for us
To keep your family close beside
To take the steps you need to take
I am here for you.
President George W Bush is the Honorary Chairman of the Games. He said “I have dedicated the rest of my life to honoring the service and sacrifice of the men and women with whom I served as Commander-in-Chief. Those who wear their Nation’s uniform, some of whom have overcome both visible and invisible injuries, deserve our support. I am proud to serve as honorary Chairman of the Invictus Games Orlando 2016, and to shine a spotlight on the unconquered spirit of these men and women, not just from the American team but from 15 coalition nations.”
The George W Bush Institute conducted an international symposium at Invictus Games Orlando 2016 on May 8, to discuss solutions aimed at helping returning servicemen and women improve outcomes for their transition back to civilian life.
The Invictus Games 2017 would be hosted by Toronto, Canada, from September 26 to 30. It coincides with the celebrations of the 150th anniversary of its Confederation and 100th anniversary of Canada’s defining rolein the Battle of Vimy Ridge in World War I. It will provide a unique opportunity for Canadians to commemorate and honour its injured soldiers and their families. Ontario has committed up to $10 million in support of the Invictus Games 2017. It is expected to feature more than 600 competitors from 16 nations.
The kickoff for the Invictus Games 2017 was held on 02 May 2016, by way of an exhibition sledge hockey game at Toronto. Prince Harry joined Prime Minister Trudeau and Toronto Mayor John Tory were in attendance.
Paraplegic rehabilitation Centre (PRC), Kirkee, is a pioneer in introducing sports on wheelchair for the Indian wounded soldiers. The First National Games for disabled were also organised by PRC and were held at the Centre. Inmates of the Centre are undisputed champions in wheelchair sports at National level. At the international level, inmates from PRC have won many medals.
Will India ever hold an Invictus Games? Will someone sponsor the Games? It is ironic that the sponsor for the Invictus Games 2014 and 2016 was none other than Indian owned Jaguar Range Rover.