I like to follow the comings and goings of the British Royal family and have fond memories of that summer day in 1981 when Charles and Diana got married. I grew up reading articles and seeing photos of the couple’s sons, Prince William and Prince Harry. International media are always interested in covering negative news about the famous princes and any trouble they got themselves into as they came of age. But I’m proud of the media this week, in particular, Canadian media, as they celebrated the Invictus Games and the role of its founder, Prince Harry.
I applaud all men and women, from countries around the world, who serve in the military. It takes tremendous commitment and dedication to be a soldier, and it’s not for everyone. Prince Harry served in the British military from 2005-2015, and he was deployed to Afghanistan during some of that time. He saw with his own eyes what war can do to a soldier and the physical and emotional scars that go with serving.
I had the opportunity to meet and speak with many Canadian soldiers and veterans when I was Director of the Sears Canada Charitable Foundation when we sponsored a program called Operation Wish. This was our salute to the Canadian Armed Forces and our wish to help soldiers, veterans and their families during the Holiday season.
While some of these Canadian soldiers had obvious physical disabilities that they suffered while they served their country, many of them shared with me the long-term personal challenges and demons they faced as well.
When I heard about the Invictus Games I immediately applauded Prince Harry and the people around him who created this wonderful international competition. I learned today that Invictus is the Latin word for unconquerable. The hundreds of athletes who have competed in these games since 2014 are truly unconquerable. Not only have they overcome some tremendous physical and mental disabilities, they have conquered them, through sport.
I will admit that while I live in Toronto, close to many of the venues, I have not attended any of the Invictus Games’ events yet this week. It runs from September 23-30 throughout the city, with hundreds of athletes competing in various sports such as cycling, golf, athletics, swimming, and wheelchair basketball, to name a few.
There are soldiers and veterans from 17 different countries competing at 9 different venues throughout the city of Toronto. There is Wheelchair Tennis at Nathan Phillips Square, at the foot of Toronto’s City Hall. The Archery competition is happening at the Fort York National Historic Site, in downtown Toronto. Fort York was a military battlefield during the War of 1812. Cyclists have the opportunity to ride around a custom designed course in High Park, our city’s beautiful 400-acre park on Toronto’s west side.
Our city has come alive this week, thanks to the Invictus Games and its Royal Patron, Prince Harry. This international competition celebrates a group of people who deserve to be celebrated and honoured. Prince Harry put it best:
“These Games shine a spotlight on the unconquerable character of servicemen and women and their families. They highlight the competitors’ “INVICTUS GAMES spirit.” These Games have been about seeing competitors sprinting for the finish line with everything they have and then turning around to clap the last person in. They have been about teammates choosing to cross the line together. These Games have been a display of the very best of the human spirit.”