Greater Victoria loses bid to host 2022 Invictus Games; Dusseldorf to host

Dusseldorf, Germany, has beaten out Greater Victoria to be host city for the 2022 Invictus Games.

The Games, where physically and psychologically injured military personnel compete, were inaugurated by Prince Harry, who spent 10 years as a British army officer. Speculation that Victoria would host the Games went into overdrive when the prince spent Christmas in North Saanich with his family. But that visit turned out to be pure coincidence, with no connection to the Invictus bidding process.

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As patron of the Invictus Games, Prince Harry confirmed Wednesday through the Sussex Royal Instagram account that the 2022 Games are going to Dusseldorf: “I hope everyone in Germany is ready for what will be an incredible week of sport. I have no doubt that the German public will get right behind these Games and that every single competitor can expect a warm welcome and an amazing atmosphere.”

Prince Harry sent a hand-signed letter to the Victoria bid committee, saying:“Your bid showed true commitment to the ethos and values of the Games and I am certain the community in Greater Victoria would truly embrace the Games, as well as its competitors.”

Dusseldorf and Greater Victoria were the two finalists from an initial 44 cities that expressed interest in the 2022 Games.

The first Invictus Games were held in 2014 in London. The 2016 Games were in Orlando, Florida, while the 2017 event was in Toronto and the 2018 Games were in Sydney, Australia.

The decision was subsequently made to hold the Games every two years, beginning with the 2020 Games in The Hague, Netherlands.

Keith Wells, executive director of the Greater Victoria Sport Tourism Commission, said Dusseldorf was likely chosen over Greater Victoria because the Games were in Canada as recently as 2017.

“Toronto hosting was still fresh in the mind and Germany has not had it before. Canada would have hosted twice in six events. It’s that simple,” said Wells, a key member of the Greater Victoria bid committee, which is already planning a bid for the 2024 Invictus Games.

“It’s a perfect fit,” said Wells. “Victoria is a military city and a sports city with a strong hosting history. We had a solid bid, a quality bid, including videos from Prime Minister Trudeau and Premier Horgan. And our legacy piece was so powerful. We believe we can do something really special and helpful for the Invictus movement.”

The Greater Victoria budget for the 2022 Invictus Games was projected at $40 million, with $15 million each coming from the federal government and province. The other $10 million was to come from sponsorships and municipal governments.

Peter Lawless, chairman of the bid committee and the Victoria Military Sports Society, said while disappointed that Victoria will not be the next host city, the committee is “fully committed” to a future bid. “[We] feel confident the work we have put in will not be lost and that Victoria remains extremely well-positioned to host a future iteration of the Invictus Games,” he said.

Sir Keith Mills, chairman of the Invictus Games Foundation, indicated the organization would be receptive to a Victoria bid for 2024, writing to the Island committee: “The Board wishes to put on record how impressed it was with your team, your bid and presentation.”

Lawless, a Victoria lawyer, vice-president of the Canadian Olympic Committee and a national leader in the Paralympics movement, said Victoria has a compelling case for the 2024 Invictus Games. “It was apparent throughout the bid process that the sport community and the general public were hugely supportive of not just hosting the Games but truly wanted to give back to our ill and injured service personnel.”

Greater Victoria was also a finalist for the 2020 North American Indigenous Games, which went to Halifax.

Wells said multi-sport games host bidding is highly competitive, but “we will continue bidding for events we feel are good fits for Greater Victoria.”

Wells said Victoria, Saanich, Oak Bay, Esquimalt and Langford contributed to the nearly $50,000 cost of the Victoria bid for the 2022 Invictus Games. While bidding is “not inexpensive,” the risk is worthwhile, he said.

The region is hosting a number of single-sport championships, including the 2019 IIHF world junior hockey championships at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre and upcoming 2020 Pan-American cross-country running championships Feb. 29 on Bear Mountain. The FIBA Olympic men’s basketball qualifying tournament for Tokyo 2020 is set for June 23-28.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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