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For country – the 2016 Invictus Games


For country – the 2016 Invictus Games

The international games for injured servicemen and women illustrate the importance of adapted sport in rehabilitation and continued service.

Adapted sport has gained considerable attention over the last decade as researchers and practitioners have explored its varied possibilities and positive aspects. One of the most important facets has been adapted sport’s ability to serve as a tool for both psychological and physical rehabilitation.

Rehabilitation is at the centre of the Invictus Games, an international sports competition founded by Prince Harry in 2014. After having spent time with wounded British soldiers, Prince Harry recognised the need to support veterans in a public way. The foundation states that the games are used “to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation and generate a wider understanding and respect for wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women”. The 2016 games included ten events with 15 countries competing. In addition to European, North American and Commonwealth countries, delegates from Jordan, Georgia, Iraq and Afghanistan were present.

Though the Invictus Games are not necessarily unique (similar events such as the Warrior Games predate the Invictus Foundation), they have helped garner international attention around the idea of adapted sport. They also point to an interesting blending of sport and service to one’s country.

For country
The concept of representing a country in adapted sport competitions is nothing new (e.g. Paralympics), but the 2016 Invictus Games certainly brought this element to the forefront from the start. The games were hosted by the United States in Orlando, Florida, and in the weeks leading up to the games, the White House released a video taunting Prince Harry and the UK delegates. Prince Harry then enlisted Queen Elizabeth II to respond. Finally, Prime Minister Trudeau joined the fray, ensuring that the world did not forget the Canadians.


These videos were humorous and a sweet way to generate attention around the games. They also reminded viewers of just how powerful sport and play is in uniting people and building community. Yet implicating former military in this scenario makes for a special scenario. These men and women already have a strong sense of nationalism due to their training and their decision to risk their lives for the tangible and abstract facets of what makes a country. 

The difficulties faced by all military personnel, but particularly by those wounded and living with a disability, complicates this relationship. They are often marginalised when reintegrating into civilian life and may not even have access to proper health care. The Invictus Games provided these heads of state with a platform to send the message to the competitors that they are valued and can still represent their countries regardless of their injuries.

The 2016 games also provided a rare moment for former and current military personnel from all over the world to interact with one another. The wars and interventions affecting Iraq, Afghanistan and, to a certain degree, Jordan, have brought military personnel in contact with one another in formal ways but even when working together, their relationships have been complicated. The games were able to not only provide a symbolic platform but also facilitate real exchanges between these soldiers turned athletes.

Prince Harry has announced that Toronto will be hosting the 2017 games. Hopefully the attention paid to the games and the promise of continued success will inspire more programmes geared towards helping injured servicemen and women.


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Leena Woodhouse-Ledermann


Tuesday, May 24, 2016 - 23:00