The B.C. NDP government has been all over the place, like a wayward marathoner who missed a turn or two, in its decisions on hosting international sporting events. It said no to the Indigenous-led 2030 Vancouver Winter Olympics bid and to a Victoria bid for the 2022 or 2026 Commonwealth Games, which were begging for hosts, before Birmingham and Melbourne stepped up. It was no, then eventually yes, in an epic flip-flop worthy of Olympic trampoline-champion Rosie MacLennan, on the 2026 FIFA World Cup.
But it’s a hard yes to the 2025 Vancouver-Whistler Invictus Games after Victoria fell to Dusseldorf, Germany, in its bid for the 2023 edition of the Games founded by Prince Harry for wounded, injured or sick service men and women.
Victoria lawyer Peter Lawless, who headed the capital’s bid for 2023, has been named CEO of the Vancouver-Whistler 2025 organizing committee.
“I passionately believe in the Invictus Games movement. It sits in the middle of my Venn diagram because it is about the transformative power of sports,” said Lawless, vice-president of the Canadian Olympic Committee from 2015 to 2021, and now board member of the Canadian Paralympic Committee.
“It is sport with a bigger, wider, deeper purpose.”
Which means a lot to Lawless, who was in the cadets, and who has close family members in the Canadian military.
“These people write a blank cheque to their country, up to and including, their very lives,” he said. “I believe we have a perpetual obligation to them.”
Lawless has seen up-close the lingering effects of war as Canadian head coach at past Invictus Games in Orlando, Florida, Toronto and Sydney, Australia.
“It is the most authentic and pure sport I have experienced,” he said. “Just to be able to complete the 100 metres is an amazing accomplishment for some.”
After the Lawless-led Victoria bid for 2023 lost to Dusseldorf, the B.C. bid pivoted to Vancouver-Whistler with an offer of the first hybrid summer and winter sports Invictus Games, and won.
“I am the most pro-Victoria guy, but it didn’t happen with our traditional Summer Games bid for 2023, however, I think the province made the right decision to bring winter sports into it and go again for 2025 with Vancouver and Whistler,” said Lawless.
The uniqueness of the winter-sports aspect to the Invictus Games won the day for 2025.
“Only 795 more days to go to Feb. 6, 2025,” said Lawless, clearly enthused by the prospect of leading the organizing committee, which includes Keith Bridge of Victoria on the board.
The provincial and federal governments are contributing $15-million each to the 2025 Vancouver-Whistler Invictus Games.
“We also want to leave a legacy fund, much like 94 Forward from the Victoria Commonwealth Games, which is still funding and supporting Canadian Olympic and Paralympic athletes to this very day,” said Lawless.
Lawless has twice won the Petro Canada Coaching Excellence Award in his more than two decades of mentoring high-performance athletes in sailing, track and cycling. His athletes have broken 18 world records in athletics and won 15 Paralympic or world championship medals. Lawless, who coached Island athletes Karen March and Michelle Stilwell to Paralympics medals, was inducted into the Victoria Sports Hall of Fame in 2021.