Knitted crowns and flags to increase solidarity amongst Invictus Games competitors
All competitors, their families and friends and all volunteers receive an orange crown and red-white-blue flag to pin on their clothing during the Invictus Games in 2020. The knitted items will ensure fraternization, with the purpose to make everyone feel part of one big family – visible and tangible.
By Edward Swier
A big plastic crate is placed on the dining table at Alie and Gerrit Zoet ‘s place. Filled with knitted (Dutch) flags. Beside a basket full of orange crowns. Alie has no idea how many pieces they already have made, they’ve scheduled an afternoon in December to count them all. ,,For sure, we are nowhere there yet’’, she knows. It is not 2020 yet. The Invictus Games, from 9-16 May 2020, are roughly a year away. ,,We are aiming to have the majority finished by December, we don’t want to run out of time’’, Ali explains in the cosy living room in Elburg.
Alie Zoet has become the ‘mother’ of the knitting club sort of speak. Leading up to the Invictus Games in The Hague, she is committed, along with several other mothers of (former) competitors, to deliver over three thousand knitted crowns and flags. During the Games, all competitors, their family and friends and all volunteers will be handed over a knitted item as a sign of recognition. ,,Brotherhood is so important.’’
The idea isn’t new, she readily admits. ,,In 2018, the Dutch delegation received a crocheted flower at the reception in Australia.’’ Alie Zoet, experienced knitter, immediately thought: ‘We can do this too’. In the beginning it was just a thought, but later on, Ali decided to take action. And so it began, that the mother of Aline Zoet, started knitting in January this year. More people joined the initiative and Ali is coordinating it all.
Several mothers of (former) Invictus Games competitors have joined. They send over the pins by mail to Ali. ,, In the meantime, we have also handed out quite a few with succes. When the Dutch delegation of the Invictus Games Sydney visited prime minister Mark Rutte, everyone, including the prime minister, received the crocheted crowns and flags.
Invictus Games Sydney 2018
She is showing a smile regularly this afternoon. While Alie Zoet and her husband Gerrit have known other times with significant concerns. Their daughter, Alina is fighting a long and heavy battle mentally after deployment to Kosovo in 1999. The mission caused her to develop PTSD and suffers with the consequences daily. No doubt, it is going a whole lot better lately, but as parents, you will always worry about your children, especially when they have endured so much. That they have crossed paths with the Invictus Games is experienced as very positive in Elburg.
The family thinks back to their time in Sydney on a daily basis and are therefore very excited about the Games coming to The Hague. By contributing to the Games crocheting the flags and crowns gives extra satisfaction. ,,We have experienced what Sydney has brought us and Aline, and we want to make others feel that happiness too when they come to The Hague.’’
Alie and Gerrit where enormously moved by their trip to Australia. In one of the movies made by the Dutch Invictus Team about all Dutch competitors, Ali and Gerrit explain what Alina had to go through after coming back from Kosovo in 1999. ,,That story came from our hars. And I had to shed a tear, perhaps surprisingly for others. This movie was watched over 17,000 time after one day and people still remember it to this day is something beautiful. Being able to help people by sharing our story feels really great.’’, said Gerrit.
While Ali is showing us how to crochet a crown and a flag, Gerrit thoughtfully start a story that begins in the late nineties. Their daughter Alina just finished school and enlisted at the military, to the surprise of the entire family. It was the time of the Balkan war and a deployment to Kosovo followed in 1999. Her experiences during the mission are difficult to process, once back home. ,,She should have given the opportunity to talk about it sooner.’’ Several private and personal problems occur leading to a divorce. It results in inclusion in a PTSD clinic in 2009 but she makes little to non progress.
But the least past years, things are looking better for Alina. The Invictus Games in Sydney worked beneficial and joining a TV series about a group of former soldiers suffering from PTSD taking them to the Norwegian Lysefjord for the ‘coaching journey of her life’, she started therapy again. Alie: ,,She and her family are doing really good now.’’
Alina now can enjoy life much more, she says on her Facebook: ,,The people around me, my Invictus-family, suddenly see a whole new Alina.’’
The Invictus-family is very close. They not only train together, they also talk al lot. There is one common goal: to participate in the Invictus Games and to rehabilitate. Alie: ,,Talking about things is so important. There are things they find it hard to talk about at home with their families, but here you can discuss it with peers and counselors.
Leading up to the Games in Sydney, the military organised several open training days including family of the competitors. Alie Zoet: ,,We have visited a few open training moments to get a better understanding of what the Invictus Games are all about. Alina trained for several sports she wanted to compete in, powerlifting, indoor rowing and wheelchair basketball. Those visits made clear to us many of the participants were or had been suffering just like Alina. But we could also see how they support and build on each other.’’
Gerrit adds: ,,When we arrived in Sydney, we where very impressed. The Invictus Games are truly about the ancient Olympic principle: participating is more important than winning. Of course everyone want to do as best as they can and put on a good performance, but you show recept – also as audience – to all competitors. Seeing all those competitors from all those countries together, does something to you. Because you see all the injuries, physically and mentally.. but mainly the perseverance, that’s what is really impressive.’’
The Invictus Games The Hague
It worked healing for the Zoet family. Gerrit: ,,During the Games, we also talked with a lot of people. With other parents, brothers, sisters, partners. And with the competitors themselves of course, from all countries. Hearing all those stories…It really openend my eyes, I also learned how to deal with it and understand it better. That is why we are very proud the Games are coming to The Netherlands.’’
Alie: ,, I hope many people will come and visit the Zuiderpark in The Hague, the competitors deserve it. Everyone should see how much perseverance these people have, it is truly admirable.’’