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Having seen the Warrior Games in the United States, Prince Harry wanted to create an international version in London’s Olympic Village.

Thanks to sponsorship from The Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Jaguar Land Rover, his vision became reality between September 11 and 14, 2014.

Like the Warrior Games, his Invictus Games were open to disabled former servicemen. This was the original target group for Britain’s Paralympic Games.

Fortunately, the BBC broadcast the Games in the afternoon with an hour-long highlights programme in the evening. They also showed a documentary on some of the British participants as well, revealing horrific episodes of bravery and courage in Afghanistan and the long road to recovery which ensued once the injured servicemen were transported back to the UK.

After release from a specialist unit at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, the servicemen often go for rehabilitation at Headley Court in Surrey. Their therapy is physical and psychological. Headley Court’s sports programme forms a big part of their recovery.

Many of the British veterans participating in the Invictus Games met at Headley Court. They got to know each other and were known to give each other a psychogical kick now and then to prevent mental stumbling blocks in their journeys towards a new life.

One Briton who was in a spot of stasis was confronted by another at Headley Court who said, ‘You’ve been here for six months. By that time, I was walking. Why aren’t you?’ The former serviceman said that was the brief talk he needed to get going.

As with Paralympians, the Invictus Games participants — men and women from the UK, US, Afghanistan and several European countries — had no time for self pity and navel gazing. The Games even had a special category for those who are able-bodied but suffering from PTSD, clinical depression and other psychological disabilities which competitive sports can help them to overcome.

The Invictus Games and the documentary were inspiring and humbling. Inspiring, because they show the triumph of the human spirit: mind over matter. Humbling, because most of us able-bodied people couldn’t accomplish what a determined group of amputees can, whether on the track, swimming pool, cycling course or basketball/rugby court.

SpouseMouse was moved to say that no other sports fixture should have been televised last weekend. The Invictus Games should have been the only sports programme available on television.

I wonder what it would be like if some of these men and women became professional counsellors not only for fellow disabled people but also for people suffering from clinical depression. They could do our society a lot of good and stop some from being too self-absorbed. Sport is a great distraction and contributes not only to well-being but also gives a sense of self-accomplishment.

The name Invictus for these Games is inspired by a poem by William Ernest Henley, a Victorian poet, critic and editor. He, too, was an amputee, suffering from tuberculosis of the bone since the age of 12. His left leg was amputated just before he turned 20 years old. He was able to avoid amputation of part of his right leg by seeking the pioneering treatment of Scottish surgeon Joseph Lister at the Edinburgh Infirmary. He spent three years there and, during that time, wrote his famous poem Invictus (‘unconquered’) in 1875:

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

The last two lines were printed on banners hung around the stadia. The words ‘I AM’ were highlighted.

Believers might point out that it is only through God’s grace that we can achieve anything positive in this life. Whilst a number of the Invictus Games participants might not be Christian, their triumph over adversity and disability points to merciful common grace at work in the world.

I hope the Invictus Games will continue. Although, not surprisingly, Great Britain won the vast majority of medals, more importantly, the Games give purpose and encouragement to ex-servicemen and women learning to live with disability.


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