(TORONTO) — Prince Harry struck an inspirational tone at the Saturday opening of the Invictus Games in Toronto — the sporting event he started three years ago to exclusively feature military veterans who were injured in combat.
“In a world where so many have reasons to feel cynical and apathetic, I wanted to find a way for veterans to be a beacon of light, and show us all that we have a role to play, that we all win when we respect our friends, neighbors and communities,” Harry said in a speech delivered during the opening ceremonies.
Harry, a veteran of the British Army himself, started the games in London in 2014 as a way to honor injured servicemen and help them recover from their “physical and mental wounds.”
“Invictus is about the families and friends who faced the shock of learning that their loved ones had been injured or fallen ill and then rallied to support them on their journey of recovery,” he said.
“And above all, Invictus is about the example to the world that all service men and women — injured or not — provide about the importance of service and duty.”
The youngest son of the late Princess Diana related a story of why he started the Invictus Games, referring to his return from service in Afghanistan in 2008 when he boarded a flight with a group of soldiers “all in induced comas, with missing limbs, and wrapped in plastic.”
“The way I viewed service and sacrifice changed forever,” Harry said. “And the direction of my life changed with it.”
Athletes compete in 12 different categories, including wheelchair basketball, archery, cycling, golf, athletics, sitting volleyball, indoor rowing, driving, powerlifting, wheelchair rugby, swimming and wheelchair tennis. This year’s event has the most athletes, countries and events ever, Harry said.
The first games were held in 2014 in London, and the second were held in 2016 in Orlando, Florida. This year’s games were timed to coincide with the 150th anniversary celebration of the country of Canada.
The opening ceremonies garnered additional attention due to the appearance of Harry’s girlfriend, Meghan Markle, who revealed she was dating the fifth in line to the British throne in a cover interview for Vanity Fair‘s October issue.
Harry served in the Army Air Corps in 2005-2015 and served two tours in Afghanistan in 2007-08 and 2012-13.
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