Prince Harry made an emotional speech at the opening ceremony of the 2017 Invictus Games in Toronto, Canada, on Saturday, September 23, speaking out about what the competition means to not only him, but the competitors.
The former army officer, who created the games specifically for wounded, injured and sick armed services personnel after serving in Afghanistan in 2008, gave a touching tribute to the hundreds of competitors: “Invictus is about the dedication of the men and women who served their countries, confronted hardship and refused to be defined by their injuries. Invictus is about the families and friends who face the shock of learning that their loved ones have been injured or fallen ill and then rally to support them on their journey of recovery. And above all, Invictus is about the example to the world that all servicemen and women, injured or not, provide above the importance of service and duty.”
The prince, 33, expressed how seeing three severely injured British soldiers while waiting to deploy to Afghanistan impacted his outlook. “The way I viewed service and sacrifice changed forever, and the direction of my life changed with it. I knew it was my responsibility to use a great platform that I have to help the world understand and be inspired by the spirit of those who wear the uniform," he said. "In the 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.”
“In the days ahead, I know many of you will experience Invictus for the first time. I hope you are ready,” he continued. “I hope you are ready for some fierce competition. I hope you are ready to see the meaning of teamwork, the proof that anything is possible when we work together. I hope you are ready to see courage and determination that will inspire you to power through the challenges in your own life. I hope you are ready to see the role models in action that any parent would want their children to look up to. And I hope you’re ready to see lives changing in front of your eyes.”
His heartfelt speech was greeted with applause from those in attendance, including Harry’s girlfriend, Suits star Meghan Markle. The actress, 36, looked trendy while sitting with a friend and wearing a purple leather jacket slung over her shoulders. The Invictus Games marks the first time the couple, who met in May 2016 but didn’t make their relationship official until October 2016, attended a public event together.
This is not the first time the lovebirds have been together in the Canadian city where Markle films her hit USA Network series. As Us Weekly exclusively reported, Prince Harry made a top-secret visit to her home in November 2016.
“Harry’s in a really good place. Being able to find his true purpose through his work and now being able to share it with someone else,” a source told Us Weekly at the time. “Everyone is so happy for him.”
The games began Saturday night, kicking off eight days full of sporting events that include 12 adaptive sports that will feature 550 competitors from 17 nations. They will end on Saturday, September 30, with a concert featuring performances by Bruce Springsteen, Kelly Clarkson and Bryan Adams.
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