10 NOV 2017: No insider from the world’s fastest growing sporting event could have predicted the phenomenal success behind a competition that only evolved three years ago. But it’s happened.

This past September, the Invictus Games swept through Toronto over eight-days that welcomed 550 competitors from 17 nations. At the forefront of these adaptive games for wounded military personnel were the inspirational stories of its competitors; stories of determination, rehabilitation, the resilience of men and women who thought they had lost it all before they discovered sport and the Invictus Games.

Findings from a new opinion poll released this week indicate Invictus has grown beyond a sporting event. “It’s a global movement,” says Michael Burns, CEO of the Invictus Games Toronto 2017 Organizing Committee on the competition’s impact in an exclusive one-on-one with Travel Industry Today.

“We deliberately planned and activated in a way where we could maximize opportunities and create the most awareness,” he explains on an event that was relatively unknown but was completely sold-out. Invictus Games reports 75,000 ticket sales were sold for all sporting competitions and ceremonies.

New public opinion research, by Maru/Matchbox and commissioned by the Invictus Games Toronto 2017 Organizing Committee, reveals that Canadians have a greater understanding of the challenges facing veterans returning from service following this year’s week-long event.  

Then again, the relatively new international sporting competition for wounded military personnel, which was established in 2014, is the passion project of Prince Harry.

I asked him, “Could the appeal of HRH be a factor?”

“Sure there’s no question he brings star power. He’s an incredible ambassador of the Games,” he said.

However, Burns further explained the most compelling results in the research involved the public’s focus and their interest on the stories of the competitors during and at the end of the Games.

“Those outstrip any element of the Games including His Royal Highness, which he would be happy to hear. As he has said to us, and to many others, these Games are not about him, these games are about shining a spotlight on these men and women.”

Notable findings:

Nationally, awareness shifted from five percent to 84 percent.

Burns: “To take a relatively unknown event 18 months ago from 5 percent awareness to 84 percent across a country the size of Canada is unprecedented.”

In Toronto, awareness of the Invictus Games soared to 93 percent after the Games, from eight percent in April 2016.

Burns: “I can’t think of a product, a service, a company that’s been able to do that in that amount of time and to go from 8 percent to 93 percent it’s incredible.”

In the City of Toronto, awareness reached 97 per cent following the Games.

The timing of the release serves as a reminder of the sacrifices made by our military veterans as we observe tomorrow’s Remembrance Day.

“With the Games still fresh in our memory and with the marking of Remembrance Day this weekend, this research demonstrates a fundamental shift in support for Canadian veterans and servicemen and women,” Burns said.

“Remembrance Day is often associated with veterans of long-past wars and conflicts, but this research shows increased support for the ‘modern-day’ veteran, and those currently serving.”   

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Ilona Kauremszky

A regular contributor to Travel Industry Today, Ilona is a prize winning journalist whose writing pursuits have taken her around the globe.

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