A national flag tour for the Invictus Games, which is a seven-day sporting event for wounded warriors started by Prince Harry of Wales in 2015, recently made a stop at the Legion #35 in Red Deer – on its way to the Toronto where the 2017 Games will be held from Sept. 23rd-30th.
“We are bringing the Invictus spirit right across the country and we are bringing the Invictus Games flag to bases, Legions and communities right across the country,” said Steve Wallace, chief marketing officer for the Invictus Games. “This morning we were in Calgary and we are on our way to Edmonton. We wanted to make sure we found some time to celebrate here in Red Deer at Legion #35.”
The Games are a way to honour the sacrifice that servicemen and women have made to their countries and also to celebrate the spirit of sport, which can have many therapeutic benefits, according to Wallace.
“The Invictus Games are a paralympic style event,” he said. “They were created by Prince Harry three years ago and these are the third games. We have all the paralympic sport like sitting volleyball, wheelchair rugby, swimming, archery etcetera. All the paralympic athletes are wounded service men and women. They have been wounded either in training or battle over the last decade.
“Seventeen different countries are coming to Toronto to compete and 550 competitors will be competing in the Games,” Wallace said. “They are nations that have fought alongside each other. Most of them are NATO allies and 16/17 of them fought in Afghanistan together.
“There are Commonwealth countries like New Zealand, Australia, the UK and Canada – and you also have the U.S., Germany, France, Afghanistan and Iraq. All countries we have fought alongside.”
Canada will be sending the largest contingent of athletes in their history of competing at Invictus.
“We are fortunate enough to have 90 competitors for Team Canada, which is the largest Team Canada we have ever had in the Invictus Games,” Wallace said. “We had 28 in the last games in Orlando.”
Stories about the sacrifices Canadians have made for their country have emerged over the course of the flag tour.
“We hear stories every day about how sport has transformed these men and women who now get a chance to put the red and white back on their shirt to compete as a nation with their friends and comrades,” Wallace explained. “They can find sport as a way of therapy. There is a lot of post-traumatic stress competitors in our games and a year ago they might have been shut out from the world.
“We hear a lot of stories about how the Invictus Games saved their lives and how they have reconnected with their family and have got back in shape. They are proud to represent their country once again.”
Wallace noted the nature of Canadians means that it easy for them to get behind the spirit of these Games.
“Canadians are wired in a sense that we have a passion for military and empathy towards those who have served our country,” he said. “It is a wonderful opportunity for Canadians to give back by being there and being supportive.”
He added this will make it easy for Canada to host this event in Toronto.
“We really want all the 90 competitors who are competing for our country and also the 550 other competitors coming to Toronto to feel the love and support of this nation,” he said. “It is not just a seven-day sporting event in one city in Canada; it is actually the whole nation who have embraced it.”
He added, “It is a wonderful opportunity get behind the team, as well as wounded warriors.”
The Games will be on TSN over the course of the week and the opening ceremonies will be broadcasted nationally on CTV.
“We are one month away from opening ceremonies,” Wallace said. “The opening ceremonies will be on CTV, where you will get a chance to see Prince Harry, as well as Alessia Cara and Sarah McLachlan perform. The closing ceremonies will be a week later, also on TV, with Kelly Clarkson and Bryan Adams.
“The ceremonies are fun but also watching the sport on TSN will be a great opportunity too.”