Monday 23 July 2018

Invictus Games 'an emotional rollercoaster', says Prince Harry

Prince Harry is the driving force behind the Invictus Games
Prince Harry is the driving force behind the Invictus Games

Spectators will be taken on an "emotional rollercoaster" when they watch injured servicemen and women competing in the Invictus Games and not feel pity, Prince Harry has declared.

Speaking ahead of the Paralympic-style event, Harry confirmed US first lady Michelle Obama would be joining him in Orlando, Florida to support competitors - with President Barack Obama recording a video message in tribute.

The razzmatazz of the opening ceremony, featuring British acts James Blunt and soprano Laura Wright, will include a jet fly-past Harry said, in addition to Hollywood star Morgan Freeman's appearance.

Harry was interviewed by a local Orlando broadcaster WFTV Channel 9 and told the presenter: "This is an experience, it's an emotional rollercoaster, there's not a single point during these games that spectators will sit there feeling sorry for these guys - that is not what this is about.

"People in America and people across the world if you haven't seen the Games may think 'oh, this is a bunch of wounded soldiers on a sporting field taking each other on', it's completely the opposite to what it is - it's an emotional rollercoaster."

The five-day spectacle begins on May 8 and will see more than 500 competitors from countries like Italy, Germany, Australia, Estonia, Jordan and the UK and Afghanistan compete in 10 events - archery, indoor rowing, powerlifting, road cycling, sitting volleyball, swimming, athletics, wheelchair basketball, rugby and tennis.

Freeman said: "I hope that my fellow Americans will join me in Orlando to cheer on these magnificent men and women who are truly unconquerable, as the Invictus poem says, 'they are the masters of their fates, they are the captains of their souls'."

Harry has been the driving force behind the Invictus Games for injured, wounded and sick servicemen and women and veterans, and staged the inaugural event to great acclaim in 2014, and that year welcomed Dr Jill Biden, the wife of US vice-president Joe Biden, to the event.

He added: "Michelle Obama will be there, she'll be fighting the whole way through with me, which is fantastic and Dr Biden as well. The support from the two of them has been unbelievable and what's so nice is to find people on the other side of the Atlantic who share my passion"

The prince went on to say: "The president has thrown his weight behind it with a video that no doubt people will see at some point as well."

Harry tried to sum up the event for the Orlando viewers: "You've got a lethal combination of fast jets for the opening ceremony, (guide) dogs helping these guys move around, wheelchairs, prosthetics, massed bands, (an) amazing sporting competition and, not forgetting, 15 different nations all in Orlando with Disney World next door, it really is going to be an unbelievable sporting event."

Former US president George W Bush will present a symposium about the "invisible wounds" of war, like post traumatic stress, and the prince will join him at the start of the day-long event held before the Invictus opening ceremony.

Harry stressed that an important part of the event was having the competitor's families in America, and the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando was chosen as the venue as it was close to Disney attractions which would appeal to relatives.

The prince is already focused on the next Invictus Games, which will be held in Toronto in 2017, and he will be in the city on Monday to attend a number of engagements marking the official launch of the countdown to the third Games.

It is already scheduled to be a bigger event, when held from September 26-30, with more than 600 competitors from 16 nations scheduled to take part in 12 events.

The prince will attend a launch ceremony at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto, where he will join dignitaries and members of the Canadian Invictus Team to welcome the 2017 Games and give a speech.

Sledge hockey - a form of ice hockey for players with disabilities - will be a new addition to the Toronto Games and at the Mattamy Athletic Centre Harry will watch a demonstration of the sport by the Canadian national team.

He will perform the traditional puck-dropping ceremony to start the match and give a short speech before play begins. Later he will attend a reception and meet the organisers and supporters of the third Games.

Press Association

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