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Federal, provincial governments pledge $15M each for 2025 Invictus Games in B.C.

VANCOUVER — The federal and British Columbia governments are each committing $15 million in support of the 2025 Invictus Games in Vancouver and Whistler.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (right), B.C. Premier John Horgan and B.C. Minister Minister of Tourism, Art, Culture, and Sport Melanie Mark watch a wheelchair curling demonstration with Invictus Games competitors during an announcement in support of the 2025 Invictus Games in Vancouver, on Tuesday, May 24, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rich Lam

VANCOUVER — The federal and British Columbia governments are each committing $15 million in support of the 2025 Invictus Games in Vancouver and Whistler.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier John Horgan made the announcement at Rogers Arena in Vancouver. 

Trudeau said that as the first Invictus Games to feature adaptive winter sports, the event will be "uniquely Canadian." An additional $1 million in federal funds will be provided to the Soldier On program to support the participation of Canadian veterans in the games.

"For the first time ever, and classically Canadian, these games will include winter sports," he told a cheering audience at the announcement Tuesday.

"We all know that when it comes to winter sports, our Canadian competitors will show them how it's done."

The games will feature alpine skiing, Nordic skiing, skeleton and wheelchair curling as well as swimming, indoor rowing, sitting volleyball, wheelchair rugby and wheelchair basketball.

Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, announced in April that Vancouver and Whistler won the bid to host the eight-day international sports competition for wounded and ill military veterans in February 2025.

Over 500 athletes from more than 20 nations are expected to compete in 2025. 

Horgan called the announcement the "best possible news" for British Columbia.

"We will have, as the prime minister said, in a quintessentially Canadian way, the first hybrid and the first winter games, including sliding events, skiing events at Whistler," he said. "World-class events are going to be taking place here."

Nick Booth, chief executive officer of True Patriot Love, said the games are named after Victorian era British poet William Ernest Henley who wrote the poem, Invictus. True Patriot Love is a charity that supports Canadian Armed Forces members, veterans, and their families.

A senior British general who knew the poem decided to call the games Invictus because they spoke to the mission of using sport for recovery, he said. The poem was written in 1875.

"The lyrics behind the poem are that sort of dark journey that people go on, and come out the other end still being the person that you were before injury," Booth said. 

Trudeau said he talked with former athletes before the announcement about how sports help with recovery and healing, and the "profound impact" the games had on helping the former service members get better.

The games help injured veterans learn that while they are not the same as they were before, it doesn't mean they "can't be a world-class competitor," he said.

"You can have every bit of that drive and that push and that quest to give all you are to your teammates, to your service, to your country," he said. 

"That's what Invictus allows. Not just competitors but the comrades, the families and all of us to live, to experience, to celebrate."

Natacha Dupuis, a retired master corporal who co-captained Team Canada during the 2017 Invictus Games in Toronto, became emotional as she spoke about how sports helped her get her life back.

She was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after her second tour of Afghanistan where two of her comrades were killed and three others were injured, she said.

While therapy helped her a bit, she said it was training as a sprinter for the games that helped her get control of her life.

"The Invictus Games are not about medals or about winning," she said. 

"They're about progressing in your recovery as part of a community who understands and supports you. They are also about building lifelong friendships and support systems amongst peers. I hope the city is ready to be inspired and touched by the incredible spirit and resiliency of the Invictus Games athletes. I promise that you won't be disappointed. It will blow your mind."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 24, 2022.

Hina Alam, The Canadian Press