Whistler and Vancouver will host the 2025 Invictus Games in just three short years.
The Invictus Games are a sports competition that brings together injured and disabled armed forces personnel from 25 countries to compete in various sports.
Founded by the Duke of Sussex, Prince Harry, in 2014, this marks the first time the games will be coming to British Columbia, and the first time the games will include winter sports.
The bid to host the games was led by the Whistler Adaptive Sports Program and the True Patriot Love Foundation, a Canadian charity that supports veterans and their families.
In a presentation to Whistler's mayor and council on June 21, True Patriot Love Foundation CEO Nick Booth thanked council for its support of the bid and outlined what the games could look like when they arrive in the resort.
“What we've done in a pioneering, new hybrid format is to take the five most popular indoor sports and the current games that you can do during the winter ... to create the first-ever winter opportunity,” Booth said.
“The goal is to use Olympic venues both here and in Vancouver, so we don't require building new capital infrastructure anywhere. There may be ways that we can improve accessibility for the existing venues which we are working in partnership with. We hope to welcome roughly 550 competitors from up to 25 nations along with their family, friends and support staff."
The idea to hold the games in Whistler started a few years back when WASP executive director Chelsea Walker and others from the community took part in the Allied Winter Sports Camp hosted by the federal Soldier On program. That discussion filtered back to London and Prince Harry, who got very excited about the idea of holding a winter-focused Invictus Games.
“What's very important about the Invictus Games is that it is inclusive. It's not an elite sport," Booth said, noting that many who take part will be doing so in those sports often for the first time.
"Obviously, we'll be preparing them through winter sports camps in the run-up so that it's safe for them to take part, but this is not about high-level athlete journeys to the Paralympic games ... it's actually about people's journeys of recovery."
The Invictus Games are full of "extraordinary testimonies" of sportsmanship, Booth added—stories of athletes that have crossed the finish line together, "or sat on the side of a pool and watched their colleagues from different nations swim the length just so that their goal is to get to the other end,” he said.
Further, it will be an "extraordinary experience" to add winter sports to the fold, particularly for the athletes from those Invictus countries that don't have snow, Booth added.
“So Nigeria, Jordan, and Australia are Invictus nations, and it will be an amazing experience for serving members of their militaries and veterans to come to the world's most famous winter resort and take part on the hills that hosted the 2010 and hopefully the 2030 Olympic Games,” he said.
While the games are quite small compared to some of the larger sporting events that happen in Whistler and Vancouver, with journalists often outnumbering athletes, Booth believes that these games offer the community an opportunity to improve the capacity for adaptive sports at local faciities for years to come.
“We hope not only to leave behind the sort of physical legacy, but also the inspiration that the games will bring for community members," he said.
"When I think back to the earliest games that I took part in London, seeing children running up to double-leg amputees asking them for their autographs, it certainly is a memory that I hold dearly. I think it will leave a lasting impression on all those who live in Whistler as something that they can feel proud of moving forward."
Learn more about the Invictus Games here.