Invictus Games: The Opening Ceremony
Jules: The first event in the competition started today – the Jaguar and Landrover driving challenge. The buses even got a Police escort. Pretty cool.
Well, the girls nailed it. They were not only good, but excellent. I think the Kiwis are also having more fun. No other team honked the horn round the 4 wheel drive course when we cheered. Our team came fourth. They were the only girls driving and we were the only country that had never been in the vehicles. What a victory.
Our first tennis game was also on today. We have very strong competitors and we only just lost to the Aussies. It was pretty exciting.
Everywhere we go the environment is positively buzzing. Even though we are all competing, there is a sense of togetherness that I have not experienced before.
In an interview this morning, I was asked what “ I am” means to me and I was a little lost for words (I know, funny thing for me to say as usually not a problem). I have thought about this and come to the conclusion that it means so many things to me that I am having trouble expressing it. This environment causes you to really look at everything and reset your parameters.
I got a surprise this evening. I was told I was carrying the New Zealand flag into the Games opening ceremony. There have been so many things that I would never have imagined, but this one really was incredible. I have never felt such honour. I had to concentrate hard to be able to do the job. A stadium full of people, cameras lights everywhere and a band. The environment was electric. Could have really thrown a “girl from Picton”, but it was another very incredible event. I think it will take time to process this one. Prince Harry spoke and articulated so much of what I don’t always have the words to express.
It has been another incredible day. Tomorrow I will think again on this day and for many days in the future. There just aren’t enough, or the right adjectives, to describe it and what this honour has meant to me.
I’m going to go to bed now. It has been a huge day.
The competition is only just beginning!
Nicki: I had a better night’s sleep after half a sleeping pill. I am still a little dizzy but it sounds like half the team is.
I went and watched Jules and Doc drive in the driving challenge, in both the Jag and SUV and both were owning it. In fact, I just heard they came fourth and got to meet Prince Harry, whoop whoop. Well done Kiwis.
It was a really hot day and I only stayed to watch the prelims, as the tennis was starting at 2.45pm. I rushed back to the hotel for lunch and to cool down before going over to tennis and watching the Kiwi boys, Steve and Aaron warm up for their first game. They both played fantastically and came back to give the Aussies a race in the end. Well done.
It was a busy day because we then rushed back to the hotel to get ready for the opening parade. A great night to be had by all.
Late Night Add On: Yep, the Opening ceremony was great. Very well executed right from the word go. We all had dinner at a certain time – all teams, then certain times for the teams to line up and get on the buses. Once the buses got to the Centre we all got off in order and walked into the Centre as a team, to cheering crowds.
On turning the corner to go into the centre we come across Willie Apiata putting down a haka for us, with some help of some of the other team supporters. It was enough to bring tears to our eyes, well mine anyway. That for me was the highlight of the night. There was a bit of hurry up and wait once we got inside but we just relaxed, patted dogs.
I love those therapy dogs the St John’s bring around and chilled until we were called. We marched out to cheers, claps and bright lights, behind our flag bearer Jules. We were lead to our seats which were just in front of our friends and families and reasonably close to the stage. There were a lot of people there. My relatives were there somewhere but it was a bit of a hurry up and wait, until the last teams came through. Unbeknown to us, at the back of the arena with a good view of the stage was Prince Harry (with Meghan Markle sitting a couple of seats away) and all the other World Leaders who came to watch.
I found this out from my family who were sitting elsewhere and could see the big screens. It was a very long night and I am afraid to say that I did not know any of the artists playing. Maybe I am getting too old, lol. It was very well run. It was great to hear some of the athletes stories. It will be a night I will never forget.
Coach Ray: What a busy day. After raising our points in the management meeting, Patrick, the field coach and I excused ourselves and made our way downstairs to catch the bus to the athletic track. What a venue all decked out with the Invictus Branding.
I took Dan for a final session on the track. By that I mean he did the session I set and I tried to keep pace with him. I won’t put the times he did up here, but he was flying and looking comfortable and at times I was a good 50m back and running pretty fast myself. He is on form and will go great on Monday (Tuesday NZ Time).
Straight after that session Patrick and I had the technical meeting. This was an interesting experience. The whole event will run (excuse the pun) like clockwork. Lots of moving parts and lots of categories for the various levels of abilities so that similar injuries compete against each other.
Being down on the main track with the Canadians, Brits and a few of the minor countries, whilst the Aussies, American’s and other nationalities were over the road at the warm up track was an amazing experience. I looked around and saw the guys and girls running with prosthetics or in wheelchairs. Then there were the field athletes as well, not to mention the athletes that look normal (whatever normal is. As an able bodied athlete I’m definitely in the minority around here and I shouldn’t use the term athlete to describe myself as I’m not competing).
I’m so inspired by what I see around me, from being left in the dust by someone suffering from MS, through to the guys and girls just taking care of business on the track. Very impressive. Lucky I was wearing dark mirrored sunglasses today because the dust in the air certainly had an effect on me.
Whilst talking about facilities, York stadium was built for the 2015 Pan Am Games and it’s right across the road from Toronto Track and Field who also have an indoor track and field arena between the two tracks. What a facility. There is an athletes areas out the back with misting tents to keep everyone cool. Each nation also has a gazebo to utilise and there is a marque set up as a dining hall for us with great catering.
I’ve got to know the Aussie Track and Field Coach Peter, as I see him each day and also met the Aussie Track and Field Captain today as well. Heidi is captain of a team of 19 athletes. She was a little blown away that in our entire team we only have 24 athletes. I also bumped into a friend of a colleague of mine from back in NZ, and his only job is to coach their sprinters. His jaw dropped at the concept that I was not only looking after the track team, but also the rowers and swimmers, as well as the cyclist who had to withdraw from the team a few weeks ago.
I was so glad we got out to the track early as it was extremely hot come midday and I was soaking in sweat and had consumed a fair amount of fluid. The bus ride back to the hotel was uneventful. I then sorted some personal admin including getting my clothes washed, so I had some clean clothes for the opening ceremony later that night.
I’ve compared being part of the team to being like a rock star. WOW. Did we get that treatment this evening. During dinner each team was called forward and we exited the dining hall, headed up the escalators and out the doors to the waiting buses. We had a full police motorcade to escort us to the stadium that is the home for the Toronto Raptures Basketball team and the Toronto Maple Leafs (Ice) Hockey team. What an experience. Getting off the bus was nothing I had expected. The buses were surrounded and we made our way through. The support staff were at the back and I was just taking in the whole atmosphere, when I realised everyone at the front had stopped as Willy Apiata VC and some Kiwi supporters issued us a challenge with a Haka. WOW. We got high fives from all the supporters as we went, regardless of what nation they were there to see. It sent shivers down my spin. The only thing I can compare it to is finishing an Ironman, but this was next level.
We waited in the wings for all the teams to assemble and then we all got lead out by Jules with pomp and ceremony. Each team got a big cheer, obviously Canada got the biggest applause at the end.
Some great people came and spoke, Justin Trudeau (the Canadian Prime Minister), Mike Myers (the Invictus Ambassador) and obviously Prince Harry amongst others. All spoke really well, inspiring the athletes. Some Canadian entertainers performed and there was plenty of singing and dancing and then the Invictus Flame was lit. The flame had been carried all the way from Afghanistan (where a large proportion of athletes received their injuries) through some key military bases through Europe, America and Canada.
It’s now the end of a long day and time to get to bed.
Read more about about Invictus Games through our daily updates at 7pm NZ time.