Prince Harry has spoken of his duty to those who serve and who have served during a powerful opening ceremony to The Invictus Games.
The Prince told the crowd made up of Invictus athletes, friends and family and civilians from all corners of the globe:
"I knew it was my responsibility to use the great platform that I have to help the world understand and be inspired by the spirit of those who wear a uniform."
During his speech to the packed crowd at the Air Canada Centre, Harry addressed the Invictus competitors directly offering them guidance for persevering through the Games.
He told them:
"You are all winners."
He also spoke of the hardship he faced serving as a helicopter pilot in Afghanistan and told the audience about his inspiration for founding the Invictus Games.
"The true scale of this example was brought home to me when I left Afghanistan after my first deployment here in 2008. As I was waiting on board the plane, the coffin of a Danish soldier was loaded on by his friends. Once on the flight, I was confronted with three British soldiers, all in induced comas with missing limbs and wrapped in plastic."
"The way I viewed service and sacrifice changed forever and the direction of my life changed with it."
The opening ceremony for The 2017 Toronto Invictus Games was attended by First Lady Melania Trump, Prince Harry's girlfriend and Suits star Meghan Markle and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who told the competitors:
"Through your athleticism, through your drive and your competitive spirit, you are showing the world that illness and injury can actually be a source of tremendous strength."
"We know that no one leaves a battlefield unchanged and that not all scars can be seen."
Forces Radio, BFBS Big Shows presenter Hal Stewart was in attendance at the opening ceremony and shared his thoughts:
From the emotional opening words of the incredibly popular Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to the powerful performance from singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan this showpiece spectacular had it all. It was thoroughly enjoyable, superbly choreographed and decidedly fitting for a competition of this importance. In fact, it feels as though the importance of the Invictus Games is growing simply by the awareness into the public psyche. Canada has clearly embraced this event and it promises to be a fascinating few days of competition.
The ceremonies first truly memorable moment for me was the Parade of Nations, done in alphabetical order every competitor who will be competing from every nation got to bask in the glory of rapturous applause. When the UK Armed Forces team were announced to the crowd the hairs stood-up on the back of my neck, my hands and even my knees where I'd previously been unaware of the degree of hair I'd cultivated there. The crowd then stood for the Canadian National Anthem, despite not knowing many of the words I, and many other non-Canadians embraced the spirit of the moment and did our best to sing along.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau came onto the stage running, smiling and ready to deliver his bilingual (English and French) address to the Air Canada Centre. Unsurprisingly he went down extremely well as he focused on the strength that each competitor has demonstrated in getting this far, "You will show the world that illness and injury can actually be a source of tremendous strength." He also punctuated his welcoming speech with "You're not just here to inspire, you're here to win." Then it was the turn of Canadian comedian, writer and actor Mike Myers to share the story of his British roots and Military heritage as both his parents served in the Armed Forces, his mother in the RAF and his father the Army.
The stand-out musical performance for my money came from Laura Wright with her Invictus theme 'Invincible'. For the third games, she sang whilst the raising of the Invictus Flag was taking place, I expect to see many still images popping up on social media over the next few days from this moment as it was truly awe-inspiring.
Realistically the moment most were talking about as the assembled masses exited the ceremony was Prince Harry, stepping onto the stage to shake the hand of Canada's 'Man in Motion' Paralympian Rick Hansen. Harry looked across the front row where the 550 plus athletes were seated and said: "You are proving anything is possible, you are Invictus." What a night, what a start and what Games this promises to be.
You can keep up with all the latest news on the Toronto Invictus Games 2017 online and on the air.
For more head to our website or watch our coverage on Forces TV. You can also listen to highlights on BFBS Radio stations across the world.