The Opening Ceremony of the first ever Invictus Games, presented by Jaguar Land Rover, took place this evening, marking the start of the highly anticipated international sports competition for ‘wounded warriors’ in London.
Watching in the stand was Prince Harry who launched the event in March this year. Alongside him were the Prince of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall and the Duke of Cambridge. 6,500 people gathered on the South Lawn of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for the military-themed ceremony also broadcast live on BBC’s The One Show.
The event roared into life with a spectacular Red Arrows fly-past after a short rendition of the national anthem by the Band of the Irish Guards, the Central Band of the RAF, and the Band of Her Majesty's Royal Marines, Collingwood. Singer Laura Wright took to the stage followed by actor Idris Elba who recited ‘Invictus’, the famous 1875 poem by William Ernest Henley that proclaims strength in the face of adversity.
The spirit of the poem’s poignant closing lines ‘I am the captain of my soul; I am the master of my fate’, can be seen in the ‘I AM’ emblem of the Invictus Games which celebrate what these men and women can achieve, post-injury. Later the flag bearers moved into the ‘I AM’ formation that could be seen from aerial views on camera.
A parade of all 416 athletes taking part in nine sports over coming days followed, with competitors from Afghanistan, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Georgia, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand and the USA. The 130-strong British Armed Forces team entered last to rapturous applause from the crowd. There was also a fly-past by helicopters, a rifle demonstration by the Queen’s Colour Squadron and displays by The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery.
In a video message First Lady Michelle Obama said: “Some of the most inspiring moments I have had as 1st Lady are when I've met wounded warriors like so many of you. You tell me that you're not just going to recover but that you're going to thrive. You tell me you're not just going to walk but you're going to run marathons. I've seen that resilience and drive first hand at the Warrior Games here in the United States and I know people are thrilled that the spirit of those Games will thrive across the pond in the first ever Invictus Games. So to all of the competitors here today I just want you to know how incredible you are. You're inspiring all of us, especially our young people. Inspiring them to believe that if we dig deeper, if we work harder and confront the adversity in our own lives with just a fraction of the courage you show every day, there is nothing we can't achieve.