Created by Prince Harry in 2014, the Invictus Games are an international multi-sport event – similar to the Paralympics – for sick, injured or wounded war veterans and personnel. Many dignitaries from around the world are showing their support, including President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle, and Queen Elizabeth herself, who all appeared in a video promoting the event.
This year’s edition is bigger and better than ever, with the games being kicked off at the ESPN Wide World of Sports at Walt Disney World in the US. Men and women from 14 different countries are competing in track and field athletics, indoor rowing, sitting volleyball, wheelchair rugby, tennis and basketball as well as cycling, swimming, archery and triathlon.
Now in its second year running, after the London Invictus Games in 2014, the big-hearted Prince pleasantly surprised many of the competitors by handing out medals himself.
The word ‘Invictus’ means ‘unconquered, undefeated’ in Latin, and during the opening ceremony, Prince Harry spoke about the power of sport to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation, and show respect for those who serve their country.
“Every single one of them will have confronted tremendous emotional and mental challenges. When we give a standing ovation to the competitor with the missing limbs, let’s also cheer our hearts out for the man who overcame anxiety so severe he couldn’t leave his house.
Let’s cheer for the woman who fought through post-traumatic stress and let’s celebrate the soldier who was brave enough to get help for his depression.”
Representing Australia are a team of 33 amazing sportsmen and women from the Australian Defence Force, including Tony Benfer, an Australian Warrant Officer, and Captain Paul Warren, who says “We have wounds, but they do not define us. Hopefully we will show this to the public. We are the lucky ones who made it home.”
The opening ceremony was full of celebrity appearances, including UK sensation James Blunt – also an ex-solider – who put on a stunning performance! Watch the full thing below:
The royal used his power for good and brought Michelle Obama and Morgan Freeman on stage at the opening ceremony to speak and share words of wisdom. Freeman powerfully read out the Invictus Pledge to the crowd to help conclude the ceremony:
Your service sets an example
Your bravery inspires me
It is my honor now
To support and give you courage
To fight for you as you fought for us
To keep your family close beside
To take the steps you need to take
I am here for you