At the opening of the third Invictus Games in Toronto yesterday, Prince Harry was joined by his girlfriend, Meghan Markle, for the first time in a public way; the event came after he met with First Lady Melania Trump, and Prime Minister and Mrs Trudeau, and took a ride in a mini Land Rover with 5-year-old Daimy.
Meghan Markle – who lives and works in Toronto, filming ‘Suits’ – sat in the stands at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto for the opening of the games, but she was not sitting next to Harry. The Prince – whose brainchild the games were – was sat in a VIP area with the Canadian Prime Minister and other senior political and military figures, a block to the side.
Athletes from 17 countries will compete in 12 sports over eight days, showcasing the power of sport on those injured in the line of duty. Following the royal appearance, the opening last night included performances by Bruce Springsteen and Bryan Adams.
On stage, Harry spoke of how his view on service in the armed forces was changed as he flew back to the UK following a tour of Afghanistan: “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. 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 the uniform.”
Launching the Games, the prince told the audience he wanted the world to be inspired “by the spirit of those who wear the uniform”.
“We took it to the next level in Orlando last year. And over the next week – in this year as we celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary – Toronto is going to put on a games that draws the attention of the world.
— UK in Canada 🇬🇧 (@UKinCanada) September 24, 2017
“Don’t forget about our friends who didn’t come home from the battlefield. Don’t forget those at home who still need our support. And don’t forget that you are proving to the world that anything is possible. You are Invictus. Let’s get started,” the Prince finished, to wild applause, including from Ms Markle, who stood.
They were held in Orlando, Florida, in 2016, and will be hosted in Sydney next year, showing the remarkable success the ‘wounded warrior’ games are enjoying.
Earlier in the day, Harry got into a mini Land Rover with Daimy Gommers, the 5-year-old daughter of Invictus archer for the Dutch team, Paul Gompers.
Daimy took the wheel for the Jaguar Land Rover Driving Challenge in the Distillery District, just a few minutes after the Royal had been taken around a track in a sporty convertible Jaguar F-type.
— Simon Perry (@SPerryPeoplemag) September 23, 2017
Some of the Invictus participants had raced around the track, and it was the Royal’s job to hand out medals, too.
This fun was followed by more serious business of meeting with FLOTUS, Melania Trump. Mrs Trump is leading the US delegation for the Invictus Games.
It appears that Harry is the first member of the Royal Family to meet a member of the Trump family since the election.
The brief chat in front of photographers was followed by a meeting with Prime Minister Trudeau, just a month after Prince Charles and Camilla visited Canada.
Harry’s day began, however, with a meeting with healthcare workers at Canada’s largest mental health and addiction hospital, to discuss their work in research and technology with a focus on young people.
The former soldier took part in a round table discussion, and mentioned his disapproval of a typical medication approach to illness.
“It seems we suffer from a culture where a pill will fix everything. There has to be a better way than just giving out anti-depressants.
“There were 65 million given out in one year in the UK alone. That’s why I look to you guys in this room. Everyone is uniquely wired is what I keep saying. There is no one silver bullet, no one cure for everyone”
Harry also learnt their approach is prevention, and that their current research, led by Dr Fang Liu, has potential to prevent PTSD in soldiers, in the form of a protein complex. It is now being tested on animal models and could one day be given to soldiers as a pill.
“Wow, that’s amazing,” came Harry’s response to the research.