The Duke and Duchess of Sussex gave rousing speeches at the Invictus Games Sydney 2018 closing ceremony after seven exciting days of embracing the healing power of sport.
Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove and Lady Cosgrove, Governor of New South Wales David Hurley, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Premier Gladys Berejiklian joined the 500 competitors, their family and friends and 12,000 supporters at Qudos Bank Arena.
The Duchess led the applause for friends and family whilst Prince Harry said mateship was a core value of the Invictus Games.
Millions more tuned in to watch the games on ABC1 in Australia and via live-streaming around the world to see the parade of nations and performances by Indigenous choir Marliya from Spinifex Gum, Men At Work’s Colin Hay, ARIA award-winning band Birds of Tokyo, the Kingdom Choir and Grammy-nominated singer Aloe Blacc.
During the ceremony, the Invictus Games flag was handed over to The Netherlands to host the event in 2020.
Invictus Games Sydney 2018 CEO Patrick Kidd is said to be proud of the competitors’ efforts throughout the past week.
HRH The Duchess of Sussex
Good evening everyone.
It is such an honour to be here tonight celebrating all of you, and supporting my husband in the Invictus Games, which he founded four years ago.
In that short span of time, the Games have evolved into an international platform of some of the best athletics and sportsmanship you could ever witness, coupled with a camaraderie and close-knit sense of community which can only be defined as the Invictus Spirit.
With that said, and on a very personal note, I just wanted to thank all of you for welcoming me into the Invictus family. I am truly so grateful to be a part of this with each and every one of you.
And I’m not sure if many of you know this, but a few years ago, before I had met my husband, I had the incredible honour of visiting troops deployed all over the world; from the UK to Italy and Afghanistan, and several other countries. In travelling to these military bases, I was given a very special glimpse into the lives of those who serve our countries.
I was able to see the unshakable bonds between service men and women on the ground together, but at the same time to feel the palpable longing for family and friends while deployed.
Once home, the need for that anchor of support from loved ones, especially given how much it accelerates recovery and rehabilitation, is immeasurable.
I’ve been reminded of those memories here. During this year’s Games in Sydney I’ve witnessed the most amazing support networks that surround competitors, and I’ve had the privilege of meeting several of these family and friends.
The Novak family from Chicago is a prime example of this very thing. When their son Ryan suffered a severe injury leaving him paralysed from the waist down, doctors said he would never be able to walk again. But after speaking to his mom, Karri, it was clear that it was through Ryan’s strength of spirit, and with the unwavering support of his parents, that he was able to prove all of those doctors wrong.
Not only has Ryan competed in sailing, swimming and athletics this week, but when Harry and I saw him at the finish line of the sailing competition, he literally jumped into our boat (with dexterity and ease, by the way) to give both of us a hug.
Seeing Ryan’s mom on the water that day, waving a flag to cheer him on was a moment I will never forget.
The support system on the ground here at Invictus is something unlike any other. Because it’s not just cheering on your own, but realising that by the end of this week, ‘your own’ becomes everyone in the Invictus family.
It was, after all, only within 24 hours of meeting other families at the Games, that another competitors’ little girl was calling Karri, ‘Auntie Karri.’ This is what the Invictus family is all about.
On that note, I would like to invite everyone to please join me in a huge round of applause to thank all the friends and family who have helped make these Games possible.
HRH Duke of Sussex
Good evening Sydney and those watching around the world.
As always when these Games close, I would like to start by saying thank you.
To PK and Lieutenant General Peter Lay and the whole Sydney 2018 team – the vision and hard work has paid off and you have put on a truly magnificent Invictus Games. Thank you for being our partners over the last couple of years, and our team at the Invictus Games Foundation, especially Dominic Reid and Rose Hall, for their tireless efforts and hard work.
To the people of Australia who filled the stands and cheered on the sidelines – thank you so much. Your energy powered our competitors all week and you made these Games your own by creating a typically Aussie atmosphere!
To the friends and families who got our competitors to the start line and applauded them all the way to the finish line, thank you. You are all part of one big Invictus family and none of us would be here without you.
And to the competitors goes the biggest thanks of all. You have once again left us humbled and inspired by your example, by your determination, by your service and by your sense of humour.
Last Saturday, I spoke about how you were part of the Invictus generation. Your choice to serve your nations places you alongside those storied generations that have come before you, that fought two world wars and then secured a world order built on freedom, democracy, and tolerance.
And of course this choice to serve – this choice to put yourselves at risk for the benefit of others – is at the very heart of what I founded these Invictus Games to celebrate. I wanted your service to be recognised.
But what we saw again this week is that Invictus is so much more. Your example goes beyond the military community. It is about more than just your inspiring stories of recovery from injury and illness.
It is about your example of determination, of optimism, of strength, honour and friendship, or as the Aussies call it ‘mateship’, as a core value that has the power to inspire the world.
When we saw Paul Guest and Edwin Vermetten support each other through Paul’s struggle with Post Traumatic Stress on the tennis court in front of a large audience, we saw what mateship really looks like.
When Jakub Tynka fought through excruciating leg pain for the final 20 minutes of his cycling event, and let the cheering crowd and his fellow competitors Benjamin and Cedric push him over the finish line, we saw the definition of strength.
When you saw Hannah Stolberg crossing the finish line on a bike which belonged to a late fellow serviceman whose values she strives to emulate, you witnessed the real meaning of honour.
And, when 67-year old former military nurse Cavell Simmonds decided age was just a number and entered into five sports at her first Invictus Games, you saw what determination really looks like.
These men and women are role models. They are who every child should look up to. In a world where negativity is given too much of a platform, our Invictus competitors – many of whom have been given a second chance at life – are achieving extraordinary things.
Now, a lot of exciting labels get attached to the guys and girls who compete in these Games. They get called heroes. They’re tagged as legends. They’re referred to as superhumans. Now of course all those things are true! Right? Well I believe, that the real power of their example is that they are not superheroes. (Sorry to break it to you guys!)
Because as you have witnessed this past week, what they are achieving isn’t impossible nor is it magical. You have seen it happen before your very eyes because these competitors have made it happen.
They are men and women who have confronted a challenge and overcome it. They are ordinary people doing extraordinary things. And with the help of their friends and families, they have exceeded every expectation.
That is something we can all aspire to. You do not have to be a veteran who has fought back from injury to be inspired by the Invictus example.
You can be a teacher or a doctor, a mum or a dad, a child or a grandparent, a farmer, a plumber, a lawyer, or a CEO. Or anything at all.
You can identify something in your own life that you want to change for the better. And you can let the men and women of the Invictus Games remind you that no challenge is too difficult to overcome.
Nowhere is that truer than in the area of mental health. By simply being here and fighting back from some of the darkest experiences known to anyone, you have become role models for everyone at home or in the stands who might be struggling with their emotions or with a mental illness.
For that friend or comrade you know who is unable to open up about their struggles. For that man or woman who has watched on television, you are proving that it’s OK to talk about how we feel. To girls and boys who see you speaking openly about anxiety, stress, and depression, you are showing it’s OK not to be OK. And most importantly, you are showing us all that it’s OK to ask for help.
Asking for help is courageous. It will improve your life and the lives of those around you immeasurably. In the moment you admit that you are struggling, you take that first step towards a better future for you and your friends and your family. You allow those around you to show you the love and concern that is central to the cure.
I’ve been there, you’ve been there, and we now need to reach out to those who can never even imagine themselves in that place.
I hope the ethos of these Games has also shown you that we all have mental health, just as much as we all have physical health. I hope you have seen that our mental fitness is even more important than our physical fitness, because without it, we cannot survive, let alone thrive.
So for all the civvies, or civilians out there, look at what these men and women have achieved and know that one day, though you may not be injured in combat, physical or emotional injuries can happen to any one of us, on any given day.
The secret of these Invictus Games is not really about the amazing medical science that has saved the lives of our competitors and helped many of them to walk, swim, or move again.
The secret to the success of these Games has been accepting that mental health is the real key to recovery. Our competitors have helped turn the issue of mental health from a sad story to an inspiring one. They want to live, rather than just be alive.
When you accept a challenge is real, you can have hope. When you understand your vulnerability, you can become strong. When you are brave enough to ask for help, you can be lifted up. You can start living, doing, feeling – not simply surviving.
And when you share your story, you can change the world. And I can’t think of a better way to continue serving your country.
I am so proud to call you my friends and my Invictus family. You are the Invictus generation and you are showing us all that anything is possible.
Thank you to everyone for an amazing Sydney Games – we’ll see you in the Netherlands in 2020!
Invictus Games History
The Duke of Sussex founded the Invictus Games in 2014, an international adaptive sporting event for wounded, injured and ill servicemen and women, both active duty and veterans.
The Games use the healing power of sport to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation and celebrate family and friends’ crucial role in helping these servicemen and women.
Past Invictus Games
- 2014 – London, Great Britain
- 2016 – Florida, United States of America
- 2017 – Toronto, Canada
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