Joining Forces

Elisha Chauhan looks at whether this month’s inaugural Invictus Games is a competitor, or potential partner, for the long-established Military World Games.

London will this month play host to new international multi-sport event the Invictus Games. Spearheaded by Britain’s Prince Harry – himself a captain in the British Army – the Paralympic-style event will be contested by former servicemen and woman who have been wounded or injured during their time in service.

However, the concept of the Invictus Games – that SportBusiness International can exclusively reveal will take place every other year, with hosts around the world decided through a tender process – is not the first of its kind.

Beyond domestic competitions of the same nature, such as the United States’ Warrior Games that Prince Harry has based the Invictus Games on, there is also the quadrennial CISM (the International Military Sports Council)’s Military World Games, which in its last edition in 2011 comprised 4,900 athletes from 108 countries and 20 sports.

The only difference between the Military World Games and Invictus – which is expected to host over 400 athletes from 14 nations playing nine sports – is that the former mainly includes non-injured and currently-serving members of the military.

However, the Military World Games has started to widen its programme to include Paralympic-style sports and hosted its first para-sport track and field pilot event in Warendorf, Germany, in September last year. This will be added to with next year’s para-sport swimming competition in France in February 2015, and para-sport track and field and archery events will take place during next year’s Military World Games in Mungyeong, South Korea.

But Sir Keith Mills – chairman of the Invictus Games organising committee – believes that the two events are distinctly different with Invictus steering away from any direct military affiliation, unlike the Military World Games, which is organised and contested by individuals that are currently serving in the armed forces.

“While we have the support of the [UK’s] MoD (Ministry of Defence), Invictus is a neutral initiative driven by the aim to raise awareness and help the wounded, injured and sick in the journey to recovery,” Mills told SportBusiness International.

However, Mills says he would be keen to discuss the benefits of working closer with CISM, and whether or not there is scope to align the two events together – like the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games.

“The concept here is trying to get an inspirational message out to the hundreds of thousands of servicemen and woman that have been injured,” he adds. “If we can do that more effectively by working with the Military World Games, that would be terrific. We’ve taken the initiative and done it on our own, but there’s no reason why we can’t work with others.”

Stronger Together

CISM president Lieutenant Colonel Abdul Hakeem Al Shino agrees that joining forces would be beneficial to both events. He says that the UK is currently not a CISM member and, by supporting the Invictus Games, the nation may change its stance on participating in the Military World Games, joining over 100 competing countries such the United States, Germany, France and China.

“We are pushing efforts into having the UK as a member, and until it is, we won’t be happy. We just want the UK to be more open-minded with CISM, because our main objective is to have the whole world under one organisation,” Al Shino told SportBusiness International.

CISM would be
open to aligning
the Military World
Games with the
Invictus Games

“Of course, CISM would be open to aligning the Military World Games with the Invictus Games, as we will always encourage efforts that can connect military personnel from different regions. The Invictus Games are a very important event that CISM looks forward to working with, because it’s also one of our goals to hold a Paralympic-style event.”

However, Al Shino says he is prepared to go a step further than scheduling events to back-to-back and believes there is potential for integrating both events, particularly given that by the time the 2019 Military World Games comes around the competition will include a full para-sports schedule.

“The only difference between their efforts and our efforts is the number of participating countries – the Invictus Games are quite limited in that sense, but we can help encourage more participating nations,” he adds. “We will try to negotiate the possibility to share this event in the future so that we can help promote it to a level that will create more visibility for both the Invictus and Military World Games. We will try to add it into our summer Games.”

Tailor-made Games

The current aim for the Invictus Games is to grow the number of participating nations and schedule similar domestic competitions like the Warrior Games prior to the event so that they can act as a warm-up or qualification process for Invictus.

Mills adds that future hosts will be able to invite whichever nations they see fit, with Prince Harry heading a board that will ensure all hosting decisions are made in good faith. What he has ruled out for the near future, though, is adding a winter edition of the Games, stating that “it’s been difficult enough organising the London edition in six or seven months”.

“Invictus is open to any country that has incurred casualties as a result of conflict. That is our only requirement, so I expect the number of participating nations to grow. However, I don’t think that it would ever grow to the scale of the Paralympic Games,” he says.

“There will be future editions of the Invictus Games in this country and around the world. We’d be more than happy to talk to anyone really. We are going to run a bidding process to select future host organisations and countries, and will be inviting organisations and countries to submit their proposals to host future Invictus Games after the London edition. 

“If an Invictus Games took place in America, for example, they may have a different make up of countries that they would like to invite to participate in the event. Each host may even change some of the sports. London will be running a four-day event with a big opening ceremony and closing concert, but other countries might want to do it a different way.”

Read Sir Keith Mills’ views on the Invictus Games sponsorship opportunities, exclusively accessible to SportBusiness International subscribers.

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