Invictus Games Opens with Prince Harry Tribute to Ukrainians

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Invictus Games competition for wounded, injured and ill service personnel and veterans opened Saturday night in the Netherlands with a standing ovation and a tribute from Prince Harry for the Ukrainian team members who left their war-torn nation to compete.

With Harry and his wife Meghan in the front row for opening ceremony, competitors cheered for nearly a minute as the Ukrainian team waved their nation’s blue-and-yellow flag after Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte welcomed them to the event that was delayed for two years by the coronavirus pandemic.

Harry created the Invictus Games in order to help wounded or sick veterans and military personnel by offering them the opportunity to compete in sporting events that are similar to the Paralympics.

Harry welcomed everyone, but he chose the Ukrainian team to be his guest and their cheerleaders.

“Your bravery in choosing to come and for being here tonight cannot be overstated,” he said, a day after meeting the Ukrainians at a reception.

“You know, we stand with you. You are not alone. You deserve even more. And my hope is that these events, this event, creates the opportunity … of how we as a global community can better show up for you,” Harry added.

Meghan took to the stage before Harry and introduced him, saying: “I could not love and respect him more. And I know that all of you feel the same, because he is your fellow veteran, having served two tours of duty in Afghanistan and 10 years of military service.”

She called Harry “the founder of the Invictus Games and the father to our two little ones, Archie and Lili.”

Earlier in the opening ceremony, the Dutch prime minister said portraits of Invictus athletes that have been placed around The Hague, the city hosting this year’s competition, underscore the “resilience of fortitude in the face of adversity, of vulnerability and strength” of the competitors.

“These are your stories, your lifelines, and the events unfolding now in Ukraine make them resonate even more. I’d like to extend a special welcome to the Ukrainian team,” he said as applause and cheers erupted.

The Ukrainians — many of them taking a brief break from defending their country against the Russian invasion that triggered a devastating war — are among 500 competitors from 20 nations taking part in the games that run through April 22.

Competition at the games started earlier Saturday with a challenge driving around an automobile obstacle course. Harry was close to the action while he was being driven around the course. As they drove around in their miniature Land Rover cars, Meghan and Harry waved to the spectators.

On Sunday, the competitions will begin with archery and cycling as well as powerlifting, seating volleyball, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby, and indoor rowing.

Friday’s welcome event was attended by competitors as well their family and friends. It was the couple’s first public appearance in Europe since they gave up their formal royal roles and moved to the U.S. more than two years ago, citing the unbearable pressure of their roles and racist attitudes of the British media.

On Thursday the couple visited Harry’s grandmother, the 95-year-old Queen E

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