Invictus Games Düsseldorf 2023 - Welcome Barbecue
Tears of joy
before the ceremonie

The very first meeting of the nations showed many emotional moments.

It is finally time: The INVICTUS GAMES DÜSSELDORF 2023 presented by Boeing brings together participants from all over the world.

The atmosphere at the MERKUR SPIEL-ARENA is already electric with excitement. At the Welcome Barbque, the dams of emotion began to break with tears of joy.

As the afternoon wore on, the U78 tram towards the arena grew more colourful and cheerful with every passing stop. Curious Düsseldorfers switched to English to get involved in the fun. At the final stop, a sea of national jerseys poured out, heading towards the barbecue. The excitement is palpable, everyone chatting with each other, sharing the same passion.

Invictus Games Düsseldorf 2023 - Welcome Barbecue Get together.

The Welcome Barbecue gives a taste of what is to come in Düsseldorf over the next seven days. The arena begins to pulse; visible, audible and and noticeable for everyone. An atmosphere like a championship victory celebration. The colours of the jerseys mix from the first moment – you already know or want to get to know everyone. Because everyone here knows what it means to be an Invictus, an undefeated one.

Teams from 21 nations are celebrating their first victory, even before the competition has begun: they have made it this far. And for almost everyone it was a long and hard road. The Invictus Games bring strong people from all over the world together.

Everyone here feels the shared spirit. There are no limits. Everyone feels like a winner. After all, years of effort and countless hours of training, including the defeats, are now behind them – the perfect cause for celebration.

Stories are shared over an Altbier or a lemonade. Being here in Düsseldorf brings tears to the eyes. A French woman gives tips to a Georgian ahead of Tuesday, when they face each other in wheelchair basketball. At the same time Ukrainian athletes encourage their Nigerian comrades, who are competing for the first time. Meanwhile, the team from Israel is still buzzing from their welcome at the airport.

Invictus Games Düsseldorf 2023 - Welcome Barbecue Party

It’s clear that the sporting competition is not the true motivation behind these Games. Here it’s about something bigger. And over and over again you hear it: the real journey was not the flight here, that lasted at most a couple of days. Instead it was the years fighting against yourself and the temptation to give up. In Düsseldorf it’s now all about showing the world what you can do!

Friends, family and comrades, many of whom have been wounded themselves, offer moral support. “That’s valuable,” says young Heather from the US Air Force in Barksdale, Louisiana. She will soon compete in five disciplines, from hand bike to swimming.

After an accident that left her needing to use a wheelchair, Heather fought a personal battle against anxiety and demons, and also against the Air Force, who wanted to push her into retirement: “I am not less, I am different,“ she says with flashing eyes. Where does her strength come from? She points to her friend Lee.

It often becomes emotional when the participants describe the years of help and support that their family, children or dog have given them. Many have come with them to Düsseldorf, and most are even more excited and emotional than the competitors themselves. That is the spirit of Invictus.

Author: Emil Salzeder