September 23, also the first full day of fall, marked the opening of The 2017 Invictus Games being hosted in my hometown, Toronto, Canada.
Created by Prince Harry, the first Games was held in 2014 in London, United Kingdom. The Invictus Games are an international Paralympic-style multi-sport event with the purpose “to demonstrate the power of sports to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation and to demonstrate life beyond disability”. Wounded, injured, or sick armed services personnel take part in various sports, including wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball and indoor rowing.
Whenever the Olympic Games approach, there is so much media coverage and buzz globally as each country gears up to visit the host city, or if you’re not traveling you are probably making note of all the events scheduled so that you can watch as they play out on television. The 2016 Olympic Summer Games in Rio de Janero saw 11,384 athletes from 207 nations compete in 42 sports. There were an estimated 5 billion spectators worldwide with approximately 6.5 million tickets sold to attend live events (forbes.com). By comparison the 2016 Paralympic Summer Games which immediately follows the Olympics were struggling to sell tickets weeks before the games began. Up to the third day of the Games sales did rise to 1.8 million tickets sold and there was hope that they would have a total of 2.4 million tickets sold. Why? Why was it so easy to sell so many tickets for the Olympics but not the Paralympics? A few thoughts come to mind.
First, Paralympics are newer. The first Paralympics was held in 1989; the Olympics began in 1896. Anything that is newer by comparison of their predecessor will take more time to gain traction. Secondly, the faces of the Paralympic athletes may not be as well known. When you think of Olympic athletes the more recent names that come to mind are Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, Simone Biles. On the Canadian side we have Penny Oleksiak, Andre DeGrasse, Rosie MacLennan. We (me included) do not think of Jennifer Brown and Robert Cassidy. The media attention is not as widespread and equal therefore the busy everyday person is probably not going to go searching for the information unless it is something of real interest to you.
Back to the Invictus Games...every person competing in these games has trained hard both physically and mentally. They have put in hours of preparation and are traveling thousands of miles to compete and showcase their abilities on the world stage. To top it off these athletes have served their countries with pride and honour.
Invictus is the Latin for 'unconquered, undefeated'. The Games is meant to “shine a spotlight on the 'unconquerable’ character of service men and women and their families and their ‘Invictus’ spirit.” (Prince Harry).
The only way that para-athletes will gain more notoriety in our society is if we as a society pay attention to them, show them support both verbally AND financially. Show government, sponsors, media that there is importance there by using your platforms to shine a light on the Games and the athletes; buy a ticket and attend an event or even two or three. These Paralympic style events and the Paralympics are needed to offer a platform for people who may have varying abilities to still demonstrate their strength, their power and their talents. You may or may not agree with the idea of serving ones country in the military. You may or may not agree with the idea of the Games. However, in order for everyone to have the chance to be included we need to make some noise. It will take time...we have come quite a ways but still have to keep going to ensure that all abilities are recognized and appreciated.
In the case of the Invictus Games, if you would like to show your support, many of the events are free to attend or low cost. Many events are sold out or close to being sold out which is great! You can still catch all the excitement on television. For more information about the games and to get tickets for an event visit www.invictusgames2017.com