My Invictus Diary: Standing on Ceremony
25th September 2017
Richard Osborne will be one of the only Brits who will be backing another country at this year’s Invictus Games. His incredible coaching journey has seen him become the coach of the Georgian sitting volleyball team and he’ll be mentoring them at this year’s Games. While in Toronto, he’s writing an exclusive diary for Volleyball England. In his third piece, the weekend sees Richard and his team attend an inspiring opening ceremony...
The Georgian Team Manager and I are attending a daily briefing to advise nations of all the activities that are happening on that day. There is no sitting volleyball training, but today, Saturday, is the opening ceremony and the teams are briefed on final preparations to ensure everyone is in the right place at the right time.
Back in my room, I switch on the TV which happens to be coverage of the Invictus Games live from the hotel. A press conference is taking place at which this year's ambassador, the comedy actor Mike Myers, is speaking. It is a surreal moment as the broadcaster presents a piece about Prince Harry's attendance at training yesterday to find myself on television next to him. I quickly head down to the area where the press conference is taking place and manage to blag my way in. There is Mike Myers with three athletes from different nations and Michael Burns, co-founder of the charity True Patriot Love Foundation and Invictus Games CEO.
Mike gave an impassioned account of his association with the military and on several occasions was overcome with emotion, having to stop to compose himself. It was extremely moving and I confess it brought a lump to my throat. Words that are often trotted out to describe the impact the Invictus Games have on those who witness them. Humbling, inspiring, life-changing. I can tell you, as someone that has seen it first hand on three occasions, it's an understatement.
At 5pm I assemble with the team in readiness to travel the short distance to the opening ceremony. We are held backstage until it is our turn to make an entrance. A spectacular ceremony sees the likes of The Tenors, Laura Wright and Sarah McLachlan give touching performances, while Mike Myers makes an appearance, this time holding it together to pay tribute to service personnel the world over, irrespective of whether they are injured or not. Canada's Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, welcomed the nations, while Melania Trump observed with the audience. The star though, as always, is HRH Prince Harry who welcomes the nations and declares the third Invictus Games to be the biggest and best yet. The official flag is raised and the games begin...
It's Sunday, the day after the opening ceremony, and with the games now officially in full swing the athletes are bracing themselves for competition. For the Georgians, however, it is a rest day as none of the team have events or training.
The hosts have designated part of the hotel as a play zone with table tennis, pool, basketball, table football and other games for competitors to use. I take on Giorgi, my Libero, at table tennis. No quarter is given but he beats me 3-2. I congratulate him but inside I think he is in for an unbearably hard training session tomorrow! He and I pair up to take on Roma and Malkhaz at pool. We win 3-2 and I decide not to punish Giorgi after all!
We return to our rooms to get ready for a reception that is being hosted jointly by the Georgian Ambassador and Minister of Defence. We head up to the 43rd floor of the hotel where we are able to take in spectacular views of the city. The ambassador invites us to drink the wine flown in specially from Georgia. How can I refuse? It is delicious, but I'm professional and limit myself to just one vat! The ambassador is very complimentary to me for the work I have done with the Armed Forces sitting volleyball team. It never ceases to amaze me how many people are aware of the relationship I have with the team and how their success at the Invictus Games has contributed to a shift in attitude across Georgia towards disabled people. That initial encounter back in 2014 at the inaugural Invictus Games has caused a ripple effect that I could never have imagined. My players are highly respected in Georgia, ambassadors too in their own way, and not only have they motivated other disabled people to get involved in an adapted sport, they are slowly removing the stigma that still exists around disability, showing their countrymen that a disability does not define your character or what you can do.
Pleasantries over, I return to my room to work. I need to develop a plan for our final training session that will prepare the players for their opening match against Jordan. The clock is ticking down towards the preliminaries and I and my team are itching to get going.
Read all of Richard's diary entries from the Invictus Games: