Saanich mayor supports potential bid for Invictus Games

Saanich facilities cited as strengths in potential bid

Mayor Richard Atwell

Mayor Richard Atwell

Mayor Richard Atwell supports efforts to bring the Invictus Games to the region in 2020.

“I think it would be a great event for the region to host and would be a boost to tourism,” he said.

The Invictus Games are an international sporting event for wounded or injured servicemen and women, both serving and veterans. The games use the power of sport to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation and generate a wider understanding and respect of all those who serve their country, according to its website.

“There is multitude of indoor and outdoor facilities within Saanich alone to host the games and we would certainly like to compete for any grants that we could invest into our facilities,” said Atwell.

Prince Harry of the British Monarchy founded the games in 2014, under the name of Invictus, which means “unconquered” in Latin.

Atwell expressed his support for the games after a member of the Canadian Olympic Committee based in Victoria said that city would make an ideal host.

Peter Lawless, a vice-president with Canadian Olympic Committee, is part of a local working group that is currently exploring the possibility of submitting a bid by October 2017.

Lawless said he is optimistic about Victoria’s chances, but much work remains ahead before he and other members of the group could even consider Victoria’s odds of hosting the games. “I don’t know how to bet on something like this,” he said. “But I do know that the Capital Region is perfectly suited to hosting a games like these and the natural attributes of the region and its citizens makes Victoria a very desirable destination.”

Hosting games like the Invictus Games could “be transformative,” he said. “It not only invigorates and excites volunteers but showcases the value of sport. The economic benefits are significant as well, particularly when coupled with a limited need to spend money on large infrastructure projects,” he said, adding that the region would not have to build many new facilities.

Beyond the more traditional economic benefits, the Invictus Games would not only help the larger public connect with the local military community, but also expose it to issues around disability and mental illness, said Lawless.

“We can use these games as a catalyst for literally making our community better – and that is a worthy goal,” said Lawless.

Saanich has a record of hosting international athletes and events, most notably the 1994 Commonwealth Games.

If the games were to come to the region, Saanich facilities such as the University of Victoria (UVIC), Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence (PISE) and Commonwealth Pool could host events.

Lawless, however, stressed the preliminary nature of Saanich’s potential involvement. While the facilities in Saanich are well known and “incredibly athlete friendly,” any formal discussions with Saanich concerning their eventual use would be premature, said Lawless.

“I think the key is to spend time right now to develop the business case and value proposition for hosting,” he said. “Fortunately, the working group includes key leaders in the sport community including from UVic and PISE, so I think we all have a measure of comfort about the facilities.”

Toronto will host this year’s games and Australia’s Sydney next year’s.