Prince Harry was the guest of honour last night at a reception marking the 5th anniversary of the Invictus Games. Held at the historic Guildhall in the City of London, the Duke spoke of how, five years ago, no one was certain of the impact the competition would have on its athletes. “Limbs haven’t grown back”, he said in his remarks, “but one thing I can assure is that mental health has completely changed for every one of these individuals.”
Over 400 guests attended the event including former competitors and their families, patrons, and other supporters.
The Duke of Sussex founded the Invictus Games in 2014 after visiting the Wounded Warrior Games in the US in 2013 and being galvanised by witnessing the power of sport as a healing mechanism. The Games were therefore designed to provide a means for servicemen and women to compete in athletic competition, in spite of suffering traumatic injuries, often incurred on the battlefield.
According to the Invictus Games’s website, its mission is threefold: ‘to inspire recovery; to support rehabilitation; and to generate wider respect for those serving their countries’. The Games have been held annually since 2014 in London, Orlando, Toronto, and Sydney, respectively. The next Games are scheduled for 2020 in the Hague, the Netherlands.
In a video released on Prince Harry and Meghan’s official Instagram account, the Duke reflects on his favourites from past Games, including moments (in 2014 when the UK beat the US in wheelchair rugby), his feelings on the first day of the 2014 Games (‘Nerves, nerves, about everything …’), admitting his 2014 opening speech was ‘probably the worst speech I’ve ever given’, and most surprising moment (‘…with this lot, nothing surprises me’).
Five years on from the first #InvictusGames, which made it possible for thousands of wounded and injured servicemen and women to use the power of sport to rehabilitate themselves, The Duke of Sussex reflects on his stand-out moments. pic.twitter.com/of8nmeykZu
— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) September 11, 2019
When asked where he’d like to take the Games next, the Duke discussed his hopes to bring them to smaller nations, where there exists a disconnect between the general public, the media, and the service communities. Failing that, ‘the UK’, he responded.
Harry, 34, seemed proud and relaxed among the crowd. Speaking to the media, the Games’s chief executive Dominic Reid said Harry is ‘the beating heart of Invictus.
“He’s driven this, he is responsible for this. It’s him that always drags us back to what this is about: the competitors, their recovery and their families.”
‘Invictus’ is Latin and means ‘unconquered’. Influential British poet William Ernest Henley wrote a poem of the same name in 1875, and while the piece is packed with dark imagery and themes, the overall tone is of defiance and resilience. Its most famous lines include ‘My head is bloody, but unbowed’ and ‘I am the master of my fate: the captain of my soul’.
And, echoing the spirit of Henley’s work, the Prince said: “If you have the will anything is possible.”