Invictus Games 'smashes the stigma' of military injuries, says Prince Harry


Prince Harry has launched the 2017 Invictus Games in Canada and urged the nation to embrace the sporting spectacle and salute those who have served their country.

Harry said he was proud to be part of the event's "unconquerable spirit of determination" first expressed by competitors during the inaugural Games staged in London.

He is gearing up for the follow-up Invictus which will be held in Orlando, Florida next week, but flew to Canada to help kick off the third Games which will be hosted by Toronto in 2017.

Prince Harry speaks at the official media launch for Invictus Games Toronto 2017 (Peter Byrne/PA)

The prince has been the driving force behind the Paralympic-style event for injured servicemen and women and veterans, and was joined at the launch ceremony by Canada's prime minister Justin Trudeau.

In a speech, Harry highlighted what had been achieved by the first Games, saying: "We created a platform which helped to smash the stigma that existed around their injuries, particularly for those missing limbs, who showed that they weren't afraid to talk about their experiences.

"We showed that veterans didn't need our sympathy, just the opportunity to play a meaningful role in society once again.

"They showed us the strength of the human spirit. They showed us that despite huge adversity, the impossible was possible. The Invictus spirit was born - an unconquerable spirit of determination, camaraderie and service that I am incredibly proud to be a part of."

Harry and Justin Trudeau meet members of the Canadian Invictus Games 2016 team (Peter Byrne/PA)

As Harry spoke on stage at the exclusive Fairmont Royal York hotel in Toronto, he was flanked by Canada's Invictus team which will be flying to Orlando in a few days.

Canada deployed more than 40,000 members of its armed forces to Afghanistan between 2001 and 2014 and suffered the loss of 158 personnel and saw many injured.

The prince told the audience of veterans, their families and military servicemen and women: "2017 will be your chance, your opportunity to salute those that serve your country; to salute those that put themselves in harm's way so you don't have to.

Harry and  Justin Trudeau meet members of the Canadian Invictus Games 2016 team

"On home soil, during this most auspicious of years, as Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary and remembers the events and sacrifices at Vimy Ridge, you will have the chance to cheer on the custodians of the Invictus spirit.

"Your support will create a life-changing atmosphere for competitors and spectators alike. Who knows, it may even help a Canadian clean sweep of medals."