Harry already ahead of the Games as he plugs third Invictus meeting


Prince Harry will launch the countdown to the 2017 Invictus Games in Canada today - as he gears up for the this year's event in neighbouring America.

Harry is in Toronto to formally kick off the Commonwealth country's staging of the Paralympic-style sporting spectacle and watch a new event for next year's tournament, sledge Hockey.

The prince has been the driving force behind the Invictus Games for injured, wounded and sick servicemen and women and veterans, and staged the inaugural event in London to great acclaim in 2014.

On Sunday he will be in Orlando, Florida to attend the opening ceremony of the five-day tournament where more than 500 competitors from countries like Italy, Germany, Australia, Estonia, Jordan and the UK and Afghanistan will compete in 10 events - archery, indoor rowing, powerlifting, road cycling, sitting volleyball, swimming, athletics, wheelchair basketball, rugby and tennis.

Harry has confirmed US first lady Michelle Obama will be joining him in Florida to support the 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 said ahead of the Orlando Games: "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 roller coaster.''

Harry is already focused on the next-but-one Invictus Games in Toronto in 2017.

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.

Later today 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 symbolically 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.