Much More Than Sports
The 2022 edition of the Invictus Games opened on Saturday (April 16) night in The Hague, Netherlands. The Games are scheduled to run until April 22. The first edition of the Games was held in London in 2014, and subsequent competitions were organised in Orlando, US (2016), Toronto, Canada (2017), and Sydney, Australia (2018). The 2023 edition will be held in Dusseldorf, Germany. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle offered a sweet and rare display of public affection during the opening ceremony for the Invictus games.
Five hundred injured and sick military personnel and veterans from 20 nations are competing in a week of adaptive sports in The Hague. The aim is to help recovery, support rehabilitation and promote wider understanding of injured and sick servicemen and women. Competitors are participating in a series of adaptive sports, including athletics, archery, cycling, indoor rowing, powerlifting, sitting volleyball, swimming, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby. Among the participating countries are, besides Ukraine, Canada, Georgia, Romania, the United Kingdom, the US, Poland, and Denmark.
The Games are an international sporting competition similar to the Paralympics, but meant for wounded, injured, and sick military service personnel and war veterans.
The Games website says: “The word ‘invictus’ means ‘unconquered’. It embodies the fighting spirit of wounded, injured and sick Service personnel and personifies what these tenacious men and women can achieve post injury. The Games harness the power of sport to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation and generate a wider understanding and respect for those who serve their country.”
The Invictus Games, it says, are “much more than just sport – it captures hearts, challenges minds and changes lives”. The Games draw inspiration from the British poet William Ernest Henley’s 1875 poem ‘Invictus’.
The Invictus Games are the brainchild of Harry, Duke of Sussex, who attended the Warrior Games in the United States in 2013. The duke was inspired to help set up his own event after seeing this, where injured and retired service personnel competed and wanted to start something similar in London. The Warrior Games are a multi-sport event organised by the US Department of Defense to “celebrate the resiliency and dedication of wounded, ill, and injured active duty and veteran US military service members”. The Warrior Games were held every year from 2010 to 2019, when they were disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. The 2022 edition, hosted by the US Army, are scheduled for August 19-28.
For the Ukrainians, the games are a brief respite from the grim realities of life in wartime and an opportunity to highlight the plight of their nation. Members of the Ukrainian team drew big cheers Friday evening at a reception also. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged the team on via a video link after their arrival Thursday. “Victory is important for us, it is important to prove that we are all unconquered,” he told the participants. “And your team is part of the spirit of indomitability of Ukraine, the Ukrainian people and each of us.” During his speech at the opening ceremony, Harry said that the Ukrainian team told him they came "not simply to show [their] strength but to tell [their] truth. The truth of what is happening in [Ukraine]." He said his hope was that the Invictus Games "creates the opportunity in how we as a global community can better show up for you."
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