A special sporting extravaganza for wounded soldiers has got underway in London.
The first Invictus Games, organised by Prince Harry, will see hundreds compete at the Olympic Park over four days.
Wounded soldiers and veterans from 13 countries – including Afghanistan, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and the US – will take part.
Prince Harry, who served twice in Afghanistan, said: “Over the past eight years, I have witnessed the whole cycle of life-changing injury; evacuating soldiers and local Afghans to hospital; flying home from Afghanistan with some of those critically injured; meeting others in hospital coming to terms with life-changing injuries; and finally trying to keep up with twelve wounded veterans on our way to the South Pole.
“I can only begin to imagine how challenging the journey of recovery is, but the admiration I have for these men and women, to move beyond their injuries, is limitless.
“Last year I visited the Warrior Games in the United States. Seeing people who, only months earlier, had been told they’d never walk again, now winning medals in front of their family and friends was breath-taking. I knew that anyone would be inspired by what these men and women had achieved, not just other Servicemen and women, but all those adjusting to life post injury. Each of them have come such a long way; even making it to the start line is a huge achievement.”
The sports include wheelchair rugby, athletics, archery, sitting volleyball, road cycling and powerlifting.
The event, launched on September 10, included the recital of Invictus, a 1875 poem by William Ernest Henley that evokes strength in the face of adversity.
Michelle Obama was among those backing the games. She said in a video message: “Some of the most inspiring moments I have had as First 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.”