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For those who missed Invictus ...

The Invictus Games closed in Toronto on the weekend to great fanfare.  Created by Prince Harry himself, the Games are for veterans, “to be a beacon of light, and show us all that we have a role to play. That we all win when we respect our friends, neighbours and communities.”  And by all accounts, they were considered a huge success, drawing in massive crowds throughout the week.

Of course, the coverage was extensive in Canada on TSN and CTV, the exclusive broadcasters for the games.  But that didn’t prohibit other countries from reporting.  Yet, the U.S., who proudly boast their support of their troops and who did have a team competing, had little – if anything – to say about this year’s Games.

Barack Obama and Joe Biden cheered on the American team in Toronto.  First Lady Melania Trump showed up for a brief meeting with Prince Harry.  And yet, American reporters had little interest beyond a YouTube video of a dancing paraplegic before a tennis match.  After spending weeks using up synonyms for “rain,” “wind,” and “disaster,” you’d think a story or two of resiliency and patriotism would be a welcome break.

Here in Canada, there was awareness of and access to the Games.  Unfortunately, they were easier to find online than on television.  But how many people really followed it?

Ironically, the media always has available airtime for sports – NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB, Olympics.  They’re major money-makers.  And every year, sports stars are making more than he or she could spend in a lifetime.

Last Friday, NBA star Russell Westbrook signed a record five-year contract that will earn him over $40 million per year for tossing a ball through a hoop.  I guess that’s an “elite athlete” people will watch.

But the Invictus Games aren’t about money.  Sponsors won’t reap a huge financial return on their investment.  So support from the sports world is limited, despite the numbers involved.  And according to CBC News, over 550 athletes from 17 countries took part in 12 different sports.

However, I take issue with the term “athlete” here.  It seems lacking.

An athlete is someone who chooses to dedicate him or herself to a physical activity.  An athlete trains and competes regularly to become the best which will lead to an obvious pay-off.

That’s not Invictus.  These veterans don’t choose to become wounded but they are still the fiercest of competitors.  And still, some events involve combining teams from various countries – something that would never happen in the Olympics.  Other times, they hammed it up simply for the spirit of it.

Invictus competitors are warriors who have seen the worst of mankind and still believe there’s hope.  They are survivors who will not let physical, emotional or mental pain and scars stop them.  They are heroes who know that beating someone else does not necessarily make you the victor.

No, these are not mere “athletes.”  They are worth so much more than forty million a year. 

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