Mart de Kruif, president of the Invictus Games in The Hague: ‘Games were not possible without registration tool’

‘s-Hertogenbosch, April 22, 2022 – The Zuiderpark in The Hague was the setting for the Invictus Games for the past seven days. The event for wounded, injured and sick veterans attracted thousands of visitors every day during the Easter weekend and afterwards. This success was preceded by a long preparation. A look back with Mart de Kruif, former commander of the Royal Netherlands Army and chairman of the event.

De Kruif, together with strategist and coach Conny Wenting, took the plunge in late 2016 to bring the fifth edition of the Invictus Games to the Netherlands. This tournament uses the power of sport to stimulate recovery, support rehabilitation and generate a broader understanding and respect for those who serve or have served their country.

“The Games are important for the athletes, but also for society,” De Kruif believes. “The 500 participants have all experienced something, and all have a story. We often underestimate the social value of those stories. They are stories of resilience and recovery from which we can all learn something. Other people with trauma should also speak out more. It is ok not to be ok. It also puts less important issues in a different perspective. That we have to give up our freedom during a lockdown; what are we really complaining about?”

Idea in a pub

“The idea to bring the Games to the Netherlands originated in a pub,” says the former commander of the Royal Netherlands Army. “Apart from an idea, we had nothing else: there was no existing organization, we had no foundation… We only had the conviction that we could organize this.”

When the games were indeed awarded to The Hague in 2018, a long road followed, according to De Kruif. Moreover, due to corona, the event – originally scheduled to take place in 2020 – was postponed twice. “That had many consequences, including financially. But you also have to keep partners and sponsors on board and review permits and contracts. But it was particularly annoying for the athletes, because they train for a year and then hear that it’s not going to happen. So what excuse do we have for not going ahead with organizing the Invictus Games?”

Learned from Sydney

“We quickly knew what needed to be improved from the 2018 Invictus Games in Sydney,” continued De Kruif. “There were huge problems in Australia with the registration of participants. At the time, this was still done with Excel sheets. That didn’t run like clockwork. Up until a week before and even during the games, there was constant fuss about the category assignments and it was not clear who should be where.”

“If the categorization is not in order, it in turn affects, for example, the creation of the start tickets, the series classifications and the registrations for the training sessions,” explains the former commander. “The athlete does not know when training can take place, and the organization does not know which people are coming to train and how many training facilities are needed.”

Reliable registration tool

For De Kruif and his colleagues, it was clear that the organization of the Invictus Games was not possible without a reliable registration tool. A tool that, above all, had to remove uncertainties. “The Invictus Games are often compared to the Paralympics, but the big difference is that the majority of the participants in the Games are mentally injured. You have to deal with that differently.”

SAP developed a solution in co-creation with Expertum and the board of the Invictus Games, among others, that could remove some of the organizational challenges. In doing so, the parties involved used the SAP cloud and the SAP Business Technology Platform (BTP). BTP offers many ready-made building blocks that allowed the parties to switch quickly.

Sjoerd van Middelkoop, director of SAP partner Expertum: “You start by looking at what is needed in the basis to remove uncertainties. For the athletes, friends, family, team manager and the organization. There were no standard solutions available.”

Fan engagement

Because the event was postponed twice, there was room to expand the app with functionalities around fan engagement. During the event, the app was the central place where, for example, game schedules, results and the profiles of the athletes could be viewed. It provided more engagement and experience to the participants, friends and family and the public.

The tool is now being made available to the Invictus Games organization for future editions. “Invictus Games is very happy with the tool, and with a reason,” De Kruif concludes. “With the registration tool, we have removed a concern for them. Good registration is a precondition. Without it you can’t organize the games.”