Toronto to host Invictus Games and Prince Harry in 2017
Wounded veterans to compete athletically at Pan Am Games venues.
March 16, 2016
Invictus means unconquered. And for ill and injured soldiers, that’s exactly how they feel.
In September 2017 Toronto will play host to Prince Harry and his Invictus Games, which invite service men and women from around the world who have left the battlefield sick or wounded to compete in adapted athletic events.
“This is an historic opportunity for the country to pay its respect and gratitude to our ill and injured veterans as well as military families across the country,” said event CEO Michael Burns.
The games were created after Prince Harry attended the Warrior Games, a similar style event held in the U.S.
The red-haired royal was inspired. In 2014 he hosted the first Invictus Games in London as a way to aid wounded soldiers’ recovery and support their rehabilitation through an international competition.
“These Games have been about seeing guys sprinting for the finish line and then turning round to clap the last man in,” reads a quote from the prince on the Invictus Games’ website. “These Games have shown the very best of the human spirit.”
Eleven Canadians competed in the inaugural games and brought home two silver medals, one in archery and the other in the 50-metre women’s breaststroke.
This year, 30 Canadians will compete when the weeklong event is held in Orlando, Fla. By the 2017 games, Burns said he expects about 100 competitors to represent the maple leaf.
Bruno Guévremont, the 2016 team’s captain, knows firsthand how difficult struggling with physical and mental health issues related to military service can be, but said being able to participate in the games makes a difference.
“Competing in the Invictus Games on home soil will provide me and my fellow military competitors with the pride and confidence needed to push our minds and bodies beyond what we thought was possible — to represent our country shoulder-to-shoulder as we once did.”
It’s a sentiment Burns echoes. He said what happens on the playing field will inspire those struggling to adapt to their injuries or to come to terms with civilian life.
“It gives them purpose and a mission which is something a lot of them lose when they leave the forces,” he said.
“They’re competing in front of not just hundreds, but thousands of spectators and the gratitude extended to them really helps boost their morale.”
Plans for the 2017 games are just getting underway, but Burns confirmed that they would use venues built for the 2015 Pan Am Games — calling them “absolutely essential” to Toronto’s ability to get the games.
The CEO said he’s had a chance to brief Prince Harry on some of the locations for events and he was impressed by the passion the 31-year-old displayed.
“He’s fully invested in this cause. He’s an eight-year Afghan veteran and he saw firsthand what war can do to men and women who are in that theatre,” he said, noting that this is the young royal’s first visit to Canada in 25 years and is sure to create a lot of buzz.
Prince Harry will visit the city in May and return for the games the following year. But in the meantime Burns said there’s a lot to be done.
The organizers will reach out to Torontonians to recruit and train volunteers, and a national torch relay will “bind the country together.”
“We want to visit all 32 bases across the country . . . as far west as Esquimalt to Alert in the arctic to Gagetown in New Brunswick,” he said.