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Invictus Games Vancouver Whistler 2025 starts to take shape

Board of directors, executives, contracts are in place
Invictus Games Vancouver Whistler 2025 CEO Peter Lawless sits next to a banner for his upcoming sporting extravaganza.

While Düsseldorf, Germany’s 2023 Invictus Games is set to launch on Sept. 9, organizers in B.C. are already preparing for the 2025 Invictus Games, in Vancouver and Whistler – one expected to be the largest such games ever.

The Latin word “invictus” means “unconquered,” and was chosen as the games’ brand to embody the fighting spirit of wounded, injured or sick veterans, who compete in a wide range of sports events.

While Düsseldorf’s eight-day extravaganza will feature summer sports, the 12-day Invictus Games Vancouver Whistler 2025 is set to focus mostly on winter sports, although there will also be events such as swimming, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby, CEO Peter Lawless told BIV.

The organization hired Lawless last fall, and it last week announced its 22-member board of directors, although that includes one unidentified observer spot for the Canadian government and an unidentified observer spot for the B.C. government.

The four host First Nations have board representation: Lil’wat Nation Chief Dean Nelson, Musqueam Indian Band Chief Wayne Sparrow, Tsleil-Waututh Nation Chief Jen Thomas and Squamish Nation spokesperson and general councillor Wilson Williams.

Some well-known B.C. business executives on the board include former longtime CEO of Teck Resources Ltd. (TSX:TECK.B) Don Lindsay, who is the board’s chair, and former BC Hydro CEO Dave Cobb, who was deputy CEO of the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Winter Olympics. Cobb’s current day job is managing director of corporate development at the Jim Pattison Group.

Another marquee board member is Natalie Marchesan – a senior vice-president at the Royal Bank of Canada (TSX:RY.)

The organization has so far hired 22 employees, including some well-known local executives, such as chief operating officer Robyn McVicker, who had been a vice-president at the Vancouver Airport Authority.

“We’ll be rising to about 100 staff, and we’ll have about 1,600 volunteers,” Lawless said.

Some current hires, and many future hires are expected to be former military personnel.

The organizing committee is not yet accepting applications from prospective volunteers. It will likely start accepting those applications in February, which would be one year before the games’ Feb. 6 through 17, 2025, launch.

“We're hopeful that the Duke and the Duchess [of Sussex] will come up and celebrate that one-year-to-go moment with us,” he said of Invictus Games patron Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle. Prince Harry, an erstwhile Royal who has lost his Royal Highness title, founded the Invictus Games in March 2014.

Invictus Games Vancouver Whistler 2025 has government, corporate support

The games’ overall budget is around $50 million, and it has so far raised $15 million each from the B.C. and Canadian governments.

Another $10 million has come from a variety of other sources, Lawless said. 

“We’ve been very lucky to have some substantial private donations,” he said, adding that disclosing the names of those private donors will likely be done at a future date.

Some corporate sponsors include presenting sponsor ATCO, as well as Sport Hosting Vancouver, Teck Resources, Alacrity Canada and Bennett Jones.

The games’ budget is much smaller than extravaganzas such as the Olympics because it uses existing venues.

“We’ve secured all our venues, which is a big deal,” Lawless said. “We’ve got contracts almost in place with the Vancouver Convention Centre, along with the Whistler Convention Centre. We’ve got a contract with Whistler Blackcomb to do all our mountain stuff. All of the venues have been secured. All of the hotels have been secured.”

Lawless said his organization has completed its first-draft operational plan and it has created its schedule for when the sporting events will take place.

It has also sent invitations to participating countries. In total, Lawless expects 550 competitors from 25 nations to take part.

What makes the Invictus Games different from the Paralympic Games is not only that the participants are military veterans injured or otherwise hurt in service.

Another difference is that it really focuses on what Lawless calls a recovery journey.

“We don’t just pay for the competitor to come,” he said. “We also recognize that when the soldier was hurt, that also impacted their family. So we pay for two friends or family members to come as well.”

The games provide gold, silver and bronze medals to participants who perform well in their events, but the focus is not on winning as much as it is in the Paralympics, Lawless said.

“The main focus is not on the winner,” he said. “Often the biggest cheering, the biggest claps you get are for the person who comes in eighth. It’s about that journey.”

Some countries, such as Canada, limit the number of Invictus Games in which any individual can participate to one, he added.

The international rule is that participants can only compete in a maximum of two games.

Canada selected 31 athletes to send to the Düsseldorf games out of approximately 600 Canadians applied for those spots, Lawless said.

“It would not be fair to allow the same people to go multiple times,” he said.

Vancouver and Whistler won the bid to host the 2025 Invictus Games in April 2022, when the two cities’ joint proposal beat rival bids from Seattle and from New York City.

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