by Colonel Carlo van den Berg
Naval Attaché and Assistant Defense Attaché
The Invictus Games 2016 took place in Orlando May 8-12. The Invictus Games use the power of sport as a vehicle to support rehabilitation, inspire recovery and ultimately enable those athletes taken part to move beyond their illness or injury.
“Invictus” means unconquered, reflecting the great fighting spirit and determination of wounded, injured, and sick military personnel and veterans. The Invictus Games started with an impressive opening ceremony on May 8, with short speeches of Prince Harry, Michelle Obama and former President George W. Bush.
Around 500 athletes from 14 nations, along with nearly a thousand family members and friends, are in a unique environment to “meet and compete” during the games. The Dutch Invictus Games team consists of 30 athletes, a specialized staff of 10 people, and an extremely enthusiastic group of 60 family and friends.
It was my privilege on May 3 to welcome the athletes at Dulles International Airport before they flew to Orlando. They acclimatized, conducted final preparations, and competed in numerous sports prior to all semifinals and finals that took place May 9-12. In the evening of May 12, a closing ceremony with many rock bands, artists, and a superb “Invictus speech” by Prince Harry.
Wounded military personnel after the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq or other places often face a long way to recover both physical and mentally. The entire recovery process starts often with a lot of courage to ask for help, followed by a lot of determination, effort and time for each and every wounded to put his or her life back on track. The Invictus Games provide great support in that process, not only for the athletes but also for their family and friends.
The excellent relationship between the Netherlands and USA is clearly visible during a high profile event like the Invictus Games. In general, the Invictus Games are all about to “meet and compete.” Competing is primarily for the athletes in so many attractive sports events.
Meeting at or around the ESPN Sport complex or resort areas is not only for the athletes but also for family and friends, visitors, visiting officials and VIPs of so many different countries who share various emotions, show mutual respect, appreciate each other and extend their friendship.
It was great to experience the Invictus Games, and meet so many great wounded warriors and veterans, both men and women. Thousands spectators have witnessed how two short sentences have such an effect on so many athletes participating in the Invictus Games: I AM the master of my faith, I AM the captain of my soul!