The Invictus Games – a powerful message about what sport can be – by Peter Newlinds

The Invictus Games reminded us all of one of the greatest and most appealing of sport’s many virtues – it can carry a powerful message and be a force for good.
At the closing ceremony on Saturday night there was hardly a person (athlete, official or spectator) who didn’t feel better for having been part of the games. In this instance, sport hadn’t been used for overt displays of nationalism or a cynical win-at-all-costs mentality. The competition was there to be enjoyed and the stand-out performances admired. The disappointments and near misses were part of it all, too. The Latin meaning of Invictus ‘unconquerable or undefeated’ set the tone for the event, and looking on it was hard not to form the view that everyone taking part really did adhere to that greater ideal.

Inevitably there were winners and losers but, if nothing else, the Games proved that you don’t have to be the best to get the best out of yourself and that if you do fall short of your own expectations and goals the shared experience and endeavour of trying to do so will be of lasting benefit. People who might otherwise have been living lives on the margins of society, feeling unwanted and beyond a useful purpose, had a shared experience to look back on that will carry them through many a long day. And of course the next Invictus games in two years’ time to look forward to.

Many a weekend golfer or tennis player will tell you the same…the focus, camaraderie and kinship that one gets from sport will stay with you long after the results have been pinned up on the clubhouse wall.

In Around the Grounds I write about my own experiences as a sportsperson, and it’s uncanny how many wonderful (often unexpected) outcomes were to be had from simply getting involved. When my own children entered primary school it didn’t take long before they donned the shiny uniforms of the school soccer team. Before they were old enough to really understand the notion of winning and losing they’d learned to understand the collective effort needed to move the soccer ball from one end of the field to the other. This culminated one day in a sideline broadcast from a junior game in which it turned out the star performer was a pitch invader called ‘Pele the wonder dog’. The dog was happy, everyone was amused and we had something great to describe on the radio. Years later the result is forgotten but the experience is not.

The review of Cricket Australia following the ball tampering fiasco in Cape Town was to me the counterpoint to the Invictus games. A pastime with an essentially noble ethos, it seems cricket has over time fallen under the spell (at the governing level) of its own sense of self-importance. The many people who revere the game and those who play it at a high level will probably find the CA review and its damning findings hard to read. The game will survive but you wonder about the faith of those who follow it.


You’d like to think that the spirit of the Invictus games (with a history of little more than four years) will rise above some of the less appealing elements of human nature and continue to create a legacy and a standard for everyone to admire and aspire to.

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