independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Harry backs Warrior Games ideal

Prince Harry plays sitting volleyball with the United Kingdom team at the Warrior Games (AP/Rick Wilking)

Prince Harry evoked memories of London 2012 when he helped light the cauldron that started America's Warrior Games for injured servicemen and women.

Harry poignantly accompanied a wounded British officer carrying the Warrior torch before he joined an Olympian and a blinded US Navy Lieutenant in igniting a large symbolic flame.

The Warrior Games will see injured servicemen and women from the US, UK, Canada and Australia compete in Paralympic-style events in Colorado Springs and the Prince said he hoped to bring the event to Britain.

Harry said he believed the spectacle of battle scarred troops competing against each other would attract spectators by the tens of thousands. In a speech given ahead of the opening ceremony the royal, who was an official ambassador for Britain's athletes at last summer's Olympics and Paralympics, said: "I only hope in the future, the near future we can bring the Warrior Games to Britain and continue to enlarge this fantastic cause. I don't see how it wouldn't be possible to fill a stadium with 80,000 people, not to watch Olympics, not to watch Paralympics but to watch wounded servicemen fight it out amongst each other - not on a battlefield but in a stadium."

The opening ceremony was staged in the open-air at the United States Olympic Training Centre in Colorado Springs and competitors and their family and supporters watched as the torch was carried around them.

When it was passed to Captain Dave Henson, Harry walked with the officer who lost both his legs in a blast caused by an improvised explosive device as he cleared a compound in Helmand Province, Afghanistan in 2011.

The prince matched the slow steps of the 28-year-old officer from Southampton, who will compete in the swimming, track and field and volleyball events, before taking the torch from him onto a stage.

Clutching the torch Harry joined swimmer Missy Franklin, a four-time Olympic gold medal winner, and navy lieutenant Bradley Snyder who was blinded in 2011 after stepping on a hidden bomb in an Afghan farm field and won two Paralympic swimming golds last year. The US officer held the flame and was guided by Miss Franklin as they walked along a stage followed by Harry, and at the crucial moment all three held the torch as it ignited the cauldron to cheers from the spectators.

Over the next six days more than 250 injured athletes will compete in seven sports - archery, cycling, shooting, swimming, track and field, wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball. The UK has entered a squad of around 35 men and women funded by the Forces charity Help for Heroes who also supported British injured athletes who took part in last year's Warrior Games.

In his speech given to organisers of the games, its supporters and competitors, Harry highlighted what he believed was the importance of the event. "With the Warrior Games combining sports and challenge I believe (this) will ignite inspiration and motivation through extraordinary achievement," he said. Speaking at a brunch held at the US Olympic Training Centre the royal made his audience laugh when he joked: "I hope this is something you will all take a huge interest in as your nation will be coming probably second if not third to the UK team."

Press Association

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