The Invictus games closing ceremonies were three hours of tributes to the world’s military, their families and friends and music topped with lots of music.
The show was hosted by ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap and even though there was no official medal count the United States came out on top; the United Kingdom came in next and France was third.
It opened with every participant receiving a commemorative medallion given to them by Prince Harry. They were handed out according to nation for competing and participating in these Games; the medallions represent their own kind of victory.
Throughout these ceremonies just as with the opening of the games, we heard personal stories of injury and recovery, friendship and comradery that were very moving and inspiring. Much emphasis was placed on highlighting mental illlness.
One such story featured two friends competing on the UK team, Louis and JJ. JJ was physically injured in 2011, losing his arms, while Louis was diagnosed with Severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD.
Louis helped his friend JJ by saving his life. JJ helped Louis by supporting him while he faced his own recovery, he had an invisible wound and he received help for it. These wounds do exist. Louis was encouraged to go to a doctor by his father. Both soldiers were supported by their families during their long tough journeys.
During the ceremony, clips from sporting matches were also shown, mostly team events. A recap of the best moments at these Games was also played.
The United State’s Sarah Rudder, who was injured during 9/11, was awarded the Jaguar for winning 7 medals in the games. The Above and Beyond Award and the Landrover went to the sitting volleyball team from Georgia.
The 2nd Lady of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden congratulated the competitors and their friends and families who’ve supported them. She said of her Invictus experience: “For the past four days, the world has watched as some of the finest athletes and warriors in the world carried their countries flags in competition against others who truly know the meaning of duty, loyalty and sacrifice.”
“The spirit of the wounded warriors, their competitive drive and dedication define what it means to be resiliant,” she said before introducing Will Reynolds, the team Captain from the United States. Will encouraged his fellow athletes to continue remaining strong and moving forward; to take what they’ve gained at these games, and use it in their lives after leaving Orlando.
The evening also featured a concert with performances by Rascal flatts, Flo Rida, Jordan Smith, American Idol Season 16 winner, Phillip Phillips. Rachel Platten also performed her anthem that has become one for the Invictus games “Fight Song.”
Vetted, the first nationally-recognized band comprised of wounded warriors who served in Iraq and Afghanistan played as well. Before taking the stage, the band’s founder and drummer, SSG (ret) Paul Delacerda said that just like sport has helped the band in the healing process, so too, has music. Vetted has members who served in all branches of the United States military. It was founded in 2009.
Before declaring the 2016 Invictus games officially closed, Sir Keith Mills, Chairman of the Invictus Foundation had this to say: “We have been inspired and moved by our wounded, injured and ill service men and women and we’ve seen some extraordinary sport in all of these amazing venues. But these games simply couldn’t have taken place without the support of a huge number of organizations, including our sponsors, our broadcasters, and of course the fantastic Invictus 2016 games Organizing Committee.”
The Invictus flag was then lowered and passed from the United States to Canada for next year’s Games in September in Toronto as the Canadian national anthem was sung.
Prince Harry said in the opening ceremonies that the world would be, “moved, inspired and entertained.” And he was so right. He actually counted the number of events, sports, days, participating countries, medals, family members and volunteers. But what couldn’t be counted were the number of “smiles, tears, hugs and cheers” at these games.
He thanked everyone involved with organizing these games. Prince Harry was so honoured to hand out the medals during the competition, but as he said, what meant the most to him was distributing the medallions earlier in the evening: “Those medallions are the real prizes for the years of intense rehabilitation you put yourselves through to be here.”
He talked about the days of competition: “What inspired me was the courage to make it to the starting line, to take to the field or to dive in that pool, motivated by the goal of giving your all, medal or no medal. You showed your families, your friends and yourselves just how far you’ve come regardless of the result.”
Invictus is so much more than winning. Prince Harry named examples of competitors who showed some of the true qualities and actions of what Invictus really is: Sportsmanship, overcoming mental and physical obstacles, a fighting spirit, driving force to compete and push forward whilst facing physical and mental challenges and patriotism and family.
What really seemed to touch His Royal Highness was a letter he received after the opening ceremonies on Sunday from a woman who told him she realized it was finally time for her husband to seek professional help for his depression. These Games wern’t just to help veterans and active service personnel face their own challenges, both mental and physical, but for those around the world to tap in to gleaming a better understanding of mental illness and to realize it’s all right to ask for, and seek help.
Prince Harry had these final words for the competitors: “You are all Invictus! You are now ambassadors for the spirit of these games. Spread the word ; never stop fighting and do all you can to lift up everyone around you.”
The night ended with a fireworks display, a rousing finale to an amazing four days of competition, spirit and fun.