The innovative Invictus Games creates more champions for Great Britain as they rock Olympic Park.
Invictus has been hailed a huge success. Civvy Street Magazine took the opportunity to visit the Copperbox Arena in Queen Elizabeth Park, London to take it in.
The inaugural Games have certainly caught the imagination of the public with crowds forming early in the day to watch the sport. New venue, Here East, hosted the archery competition and saw queues of people snaking down the side of the building waiting to get in to watch our wounded ex-Servicepeople taking on the best of their peers from the other 12 competing nations.
The archery, was of course, a highly intense competition, staged in a hushed Here East centre. The spectators were sat in darkness with only the archers and the targets bathed in light. It made for a quietly dramatic scene for the shoot outs.
In stark contrast the Copperbox Arena was hosting the wheelchair rugby just down the road. Since the 2012 Paralympics the Copperbox Arena has been affectionately known as the ‘box that rocks’ and that was no more true than on Friday when Civvy Street Magazine watched the action.
The game of wheelchair rugby also, you may realise, has an affectionate nickname – ‘Murderball’. This might strike fear into lesser mortals than those that have faced the extremes of frontline aggression. To the British Armed Forces it’s about doing what they do best: applying the correct pressure and strategy at precisely the right moments.
It’s certainly worth noting that whilst this is still a game of big hits and plenty of what might be called by commentators, ‘argey-bargey’ that the sport has certainly developed since I first saw it in 2012, during the London Games. The British team seemed to prey on any defender that wasn’t in their proper place, throwing some sublime passes and making clever moves that simply unlocked their opposition, leaving the goal area wide open.
In some senses it made the hits, that are often shockingly (for traditional rugby union fans) ‘off the ball’, more juddering to witness. This said, even this aspect of the game has become far more scientific and it’s clear that technique has been studied and practised on the training court time and again.
So the game has suddenly found finesse, and great ball handling skills have become the essence of a top side; probably a good thing given that we were in the company of HRH Prince Harry and his chum, Mayor of London, Boris Johnson. The Mayor spoke at half time during the rugby to congratulate the Prince on the undertaking and again to assert his fondness for the way that the Capital embraces disability sport, saying: “London always puts on a fantastic display of the human spirit.”
This is one of the many reasons why the Invictus Games are here to stay. After rave reviews and plenty of televsion coverage, wounded members of our Armed Forces will never be looked at in the same way again. Whilst there was no love lost on court today, there was plenty of respect gained.