A yellow bench. A simple yellow bench. It is all the rage during this edition of the Invictus Games. Because of its symbolic value. Because of the wonderful conversations had on it. If it is up to the organisers of the Invictus Games The Hague, the yellow bench will conquer the world. And the news is encouraging. While the Invictus Games are still ongoing, the idea has been embraced worldwide. The yellow bench will be the legacy of this year’s Invictus Games.
On the yellow bench you can sit down and enter into conversation with one another. With an acquaintance, but more often than not, with a complete stranger. The bench is the place to meet other people. During the opening ceremony of the Invictus Games and live on air, Renee Krist and Hans Ploegmakers took a seat on the wooden two-seater. Renee is the sister of Tom, who was killed in action in Afghanistan. Hans survived the 1996 Hercules plane crash, where 34 people lost their lives – among which, 29 of Hans’ mates. The two spoke about their loved ones, but also about the future. This is all possible. A conversation on the yellow bench can go in any direction. Most often one will find that two seemingly different people will always have something in common. It also offers some to tell their stories, if the other is lending an empathetic ear.
Conny Wenting, CEO of the Invictus Games The Hague 2020, had a brief sit down with the initiator of the Invictus Games, the Duke of Sussex, Prince Harry. They discussed the idea to give international fame to the yellow benches. Within and outside of the Invictus-community. Briefly prior, the Duke assisted two Dutch and two Ukrainian competitors in the Invictus Games in painting one of the permanent benches in the garden yellow. The Municipality of The Hague had provided its consent. In addition, mayor Jan van Zanen would like to see a bench installed in the reception area of city hall.
And they are not the only ones. Kenneth Fisher runs a foundation in the United States which provides comfort homes for military and veteran families while their family member is working on their rehabilitation. He would like to see a yellow bench in each of the 100 Fisher Houses. Additionally, the organisers of the Invictus Games 2023 in Düsseldorf are also looking into options to make room for the yellow bench. The aspiration is that the 2025 host city, to be announced Friday, will embrace the idea.
Conny Wenting: “For our opening ceremony, we have chosen three symbols that represent important values. During the opening and at each venue where matches will take place, we have placed a yellow chair. This chair will remain empty. It provides a place for loss and mourning, and we commemorate those who are unable to join us for these Invictus Games. Furthermore, there is the Life Line, which symbolises others’ helping hands. The bench is an important meeting place, where one could move forward in their healing process by sharing their story. And to listen to the stories of others.”
“We hope that the yellow bench will become a symbol worldwide, not just during the week of the Invictus Games but year-round. It is a very visible symbol.”