THE HAGUE, Netherlands – The Invictus Games competition for wounded, injured and sick personnel and veterans opened on Saturday evening in the Netherlands with a standing ovation and a tribute from Prince Harry to the team members Ukrainian women who left their war-torn country to compete.
With Harry and his wife Meghan in the front row for the opening ceremony, competitors cheered for almost a minute as the Ukrainian team waved their country’s blue and yellow flag after Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte welcomed to the event which was delayed for two years. by the coronavirus pandemic.
Harry founded the Invictus Games to help rehabilitate injured or ill service members and veterans by challenging them to compete in sporting events similar to the Paralympic Games.
Welcoming all competitors, Harry singled out the Ukrainian team and their supporters.
“Your bravery in choosing to come and be here tonight cannot be overstated,” he said, a day after meeting the Ukrainians at a reception.
“You know, we’re on your side. The world is united with you. And yet you deserve more. And I hope these events, this event, will create the opportunity… of how we as a global community can best present ourselves to you,” Harry added.
Meghan took the stage before Harry and introduced him, saying: “I couldn’t love and respect him more. And I know you all feel the same, because he’s your fellow veteran, having served two tours of service in Afghanistan and 10 years of military service.
She called Harry “the founder of the Invictus Games and the father of our two little ones, Archie and Lili”.
Earlier during the opening ceremony, the Dutch Prime Minister said that the portraits of Invictus athletes that have been placed around The Hague, the city hosting this year’s competition, underline the “resilience of the force in the face adversity, vulnerability and strength” of competitors. .
“These are your stories, your lifelines and the events currently unfolding in Ukraine make them resonate even more. I would like to welcome the Ukrainian team,” he said to applause and cheers.
The Ukrainians – many of whom are taking a brief break from defending their country against the Russian invasion that sparked a devastating war – are among 500 competitors from 20 nations taking part in the games which run until April 22.
Earlier Saturday, competition at the games began with a driving challenge around an automotive obstacle course. Harry approached the action as he circled the course. He and Meghan then waved to onlookers as they were driven around in miniature Land Rover cars with children behind the wheel.
Starting Sunday, competitors will take part in athletics, archery, cycling, indoor rowing, powerlifting, sitting volleyball, swimming, wheelchair basketball and rugby in a wheelchair.
On Friday, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, as Harry and Meghan are also known, attended a welcome event for contestants and their friends and family. It was the couple’s first public appearance in Europe since they gave up their official royal roles and moved to the US more than two years ago, citing the unbearable pressure of their roles and racist attitudes in the media British.
The couple visited Harry’s grandmother, 95-year-old Queen Elizabeth II, at Windsor Castle on Thursday. The Queen has recently struggled with mobility issues.