Too often the “impact” of sporting events is measured purely in economic terms. With the 2nd Invictus Games, slated for this Sunday (May 8) through May 12 at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports at Disney World in Orlando, the impact actually is beyond measure.
Britain’s Prince Harry, the event’s founder, will be there. So will First Lady Michelle Obama, Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman, several notable music acts (including Sunshine State native Flo Rida at the closing ceremonies) and other celebrities.
None of them will be the star of the event. That honor is reserved for the more than 500 athletes from 15 invited nations – all of whom are wounded, ill or disabled military veterans.
Prince Harry, having watched a U.K. team compete in an American competition for wounded soldiers, conceived of the Invictus Games, named after the Latin adjective for “Unconquered, Undefeated” as a way to honor British soldiers who had been wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with soldiers from other nations who fought alongside them in the two wars. The inaugural games were held in London two years ago, having been organized in just 10 months with help from the organizers of the 2012 Olympics and the British government.
The event was considered a major success, and the prince formed an Invictus Foundation to ensure the future of the games. Orlando was announced last summer as the site for the second games and Toronto will be the host city next year.
Invited nations this year: Afghanistan, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, France, Georgia, Germany, Iraq, Italy, Jordan, Netherlands, New Zealand, the U.K. and the U.S.
Sports include track and field, indoor rowing, cycling, sitting volleyball, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby, wheelchair tennis, powerlifting, swimming, archery and triathalon.
Jaguar Land Rover is the primary sponsor of the event and will host a driving challenge the day before (May 7) providing competitors with an opportunity to win the first medal of the 2016 games.
Those are the facts, but they don’t begin to tell the story. In a way that possibly no sporting event can match, the athletes are the story. There are as many tales as competitors, but consider the story of Michael Roggio, retired Navy electrician’s mate third class. Shortly after turning home from a deployment, the Orlando native suffered traumatic brain injury and a spinal cord injury working in an aircraft hanger.
Roggio lost the use of his legs and spent three years rehabilitating. He retired from the Navy in 2013 and credits adaptive sports and events like the Invictus Games for being keys to his recovery.
“I am an athlete that never gives up,” he said. “I was given a dismal chance at recovery and that did not stop me. I rebuilt my life from the ground up and I want to motivate others to fight the odds and find quality in life again.”
As the games draw nearer, there has been an uptick in good-natured challenges between some of the competing nations, especially the U.S. and U.K. The most notable instance came when President and Mrs. Obama texted a video to Prince Harry – without knowing where he might be at the moment he received it. The results were quite amusing:
After a story like Roggio’s and some presidential-royal trash talking, it seems almost inappropriate to discuss economic impact, but there is one. British economists and other thought leaders credit the 2012 London Olympics with driving rapid regeneration in parts of the city and with convincing British leaders to invest in more major sporting events. Neal Coleman, deputy chair of the London Legacy Development Corporation, wrote two years ago that a direct line can be drawn from the Olympics to the Invictus Games.
That’s quite a pedigree – and quite a statement about Florida’s sports culture that Orlando was chosen to keep the torch burning for this inspirational event.
Citrus By Any Other Name?
Camping World Stadium. Play around with it for a bit. Practice saying it and see how easily it rolls off the tongue. Is it an adequate new corporate name for the Orlando Citrus Bowl? Do you plan on using the new name?
Leaders of the Kentucky based company and Florida Citrus Sports officials certainly hope you use the new name, but ultimately both sides already view themselves as winners.
For Florida Citrus Sports, the benefits are obvious: The organization received a significant payment for the stadium name change. Financial details of the contract, which goes through 2014, were not disclosed when the deal was announced. While it’s safe to say the rights payments aren’t on par with the $25 million per year MetLife paid to have its name on the stadium where New York’s Giants and Jets play, the money in this case will not be insignificant.
As for Camping World, it is about to get a major visibility upgrade. It doesn’t matter whether the average Orlando resident embraces the new name, the networks that televise the three bowl games and other events at the stadium (including next year’s WrestleMania) and the newspapers that cover them will use its new name. Camping World’s name also will be attached to a new season-opening college football game that will be played there (which features Florida State this year, and 2019’s participants will be UF and Miami).
And, if the NFL actual awards the Pro Bowl to the stadium . . .
For purists upset by the name change, relax. The name “Citrus Bowl” was never written on a stone tablet. It’s actually one of six different names by which the stadium has been known. The other monikers? Besides Camping World Stadium, it has been Orlando Stadium (1936-46 and 1977-82), the Tangerine Bowl (1947-75), the plain old Citrus Bowl (1976), the Florida Citrus Bowl (1983-2013) and the Orlando Citrus Bowl (2014-16).