Listen to Prince Harry reflect on his time in Afghanistan and how it created the inspiration to start the Invictus Games.
With Prince Harry’s official launch of the 2017 Invictus Games, the city of Toronto is buzzing with the Invictus spirit in preparation to host the Invictus Games next year.
“In two weeks time, at the end of the Orlando games, Toronto will become the custodian of the Invictus spirit. This city will become the focal point for hundreds of men and women who use the pull of Invictus glory to motivate their recovery from physical and mental injuries and Toronto will take on the responsibility for a competition that has the power to inspire millions of people around the world and to remind us all of the amazing contribution of our service men women and veterans make,” said the Prince of Whales at the official launch ceremony held at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel.
Next year’s games, the third annual games, are expected to bigger than ever.
“The Toronto games are going to be, I am promised, the biggest and best Invictus games yet. With more competitors, competing in more sports in front of more spectators than ever before,” added Prince Harry.
Next year’s games will include several firsts including the first national torch relay which will spread the Invictus spirit in 32 military bases and cities across the country. Next year’s games will also feature a much larger Canadian team, and especially the significant 150th anniversary of Confederation and the 100th anniversary of Vimy Ridge.
The city is expected to use the infrastructure set up for the 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games, with several Invictus competitions being held at former Pan Am venues.
Aimed at giving ill and injured soldiers a second chance, Prince Harry shared with audiences how his time in the military, fighting in Afghanistan, inspired him to launch these international games.
In Feb. 2008, the Prince of Wales had to leave Afghanistan when the media got wind of his presence on the frontline. Fearing for the safety of his soldiers he decided to leave, but the guilt stayed with him.
“It was on that flight home from Afghanistan which put me on the path to creating the Invictus Games,” recalled the prince.
During the flight home, the young royal witnessed the “stark contrast and reality of war,” as the plane also transported home the coffin of a Danish soldier and several severely injured British soldiers.
He returned four years later as an Apache Helicopter Pilot, which only added to his desire to help the ill and injured soldiers. He found inspiration one year later at the Warrior Games in Colorado and decide to take it international.
“Sports is what made the difference. Sports can help these guys fix their lives and those around them,” said Prince Harry.
The country’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was also present at the launch ceremony.
“The Invictus Games, started in 2014, are an amazing way for our wounded, injured and sick service personnel to compete in international sport, pushing the worlds best and brightest to their limits, our service men and women are called upon to do what they do best: serve their country with passion, courage, and integrity,” said Trudeau.
Ontario Premier, Kathleen Wynne, also in attendance at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel launch, pledged $10 million over the next two years in support of the Invictus Games.
Following the official launch ceremony, guests and the day’s VIPs made their way to Ryerson’s Mattamy Athletic Centre for a Sledge Hockey Exhibition Game of Canada’s National Team, hosted by Cabbie Richards, a Canadian sports television personality on Sportscentre on TSN and Canadian television personality, Melissa Grelo. She is best known as a co-host of CP24 Breakfast and The Social.
Sledge Hockey is a new addition to the 2017 games. When asked about why this sport was added, Prince Harry poked a bit of fun at next year’s host nation stating: “This is Canada: Everything happens on ice, doesn’t it?”
Adaptive golf is another expected new addition to the 2017 Invictus Games.