The Invictus Games Opening Ceremony took place last night Our reporter, Kelli Finger, was there, and here is her report:
There is no official medal count for the games. Significance is placed on family and friends getting them through their recovery and helping them get back in to society. At Prince Harry’s insistence, or need to help educate the world at large, there are more veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and traumatic brain injuries competing in these games. The Games are considered to be therapy for the competitors.
The Parade of Nations took place, where all the athletes entered the stadium to a standing ovation. These 14 countries are: Afghanistan, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, France, Georgia, Germany, Italy, Jordan (newest of the nations), Netherlands, New Zealand, United Kingdom, (110 competitors along with the US which has the largest number of competitors.
There was then a moving performance by Laura Wright of her self-penned song, “Invincible” whilst in the background, soldiers work together in their recovery. She was joined by a military choir.
Next came the delivery of the Invictus Games flag where US team Captain, will Reynolds received it at Buckingham Palace in London from Prince Harry. He took it to First Lady, Michelle Obama at the White House who then delivered it in to the care of staff Sargent, August O’Niel. After Sargent O’Niel, dropped to the ground by 2 Blackhawk helicopters, the Color Guard then raised the flag with “I am” written in gold. We heard the heroic story of Staff Sargent O’Niel’s injury and recovery and return to active duty.
Then the Invictus National Anthem was played, a composition by Coldplay’s Chris Martin.
Ken Fisher, Chairman and CEO of the 2016 Invictus Games said: “The Invictus Games will celebrate the military family as never before. We will celebrate their role in recovery and witness the role sports played in that long and difficult rehabilitation process.”
Gareth Malone was the Director of the Invictus Choir. The choir wrote a song which they practiced only eight weeks prior. With the help of servicemen and women they performed ‘Flesh and Blood’.
Lyrics to the song included: “I have been strong. I have been weak. And there were days I could not breath. but from the dust, and through the snow, we come together now.”
For an awe-inspiring and breath-taking five minutes, the US Marine Corps Silent Drill team, dressed in full uniform – full dress with white gloves, led by a Drill Master, went through a series of drills in complete synchronization. These disciplined heroes kept their eyes forward, never watching what they were doing with their hands.
A live interview was conducted where Australia’s team Captain, Paul Warren said: “It means everything. I thought the chance to compete again was gone.” Warren is competing in swimming, rugby and rowing.
British singer, James Blunt, then performed a song titled: “No Bravery”, followed by a song called “Wise Men.” He also performed his hit single, “You’re Beautiful.”
For the brief time Prince Harry was on stage, he made every word count. He emphasized and encouraged people to learn about mental health and the invisible wounds that veterans and the mental struggles others might be going through. The Prince stressed that if these veterans at these games can overcome challenges both mental or physical, surely those fighting their own battles at home, despite their age or circumstance can too.
He thanked the competitors and said how they’ve inspired him: “Can I just say thank you, to all of you guys. You are fierce competitors. You are role models that any parent would be proud to have their children follow. You’ve made me a better person, and you’re about to inspire the world. And I’m proud to call you my friends. So, let’s put on a hell of a show in memory of our fallen comrades who didn’t make it. We are Invictus!”
First Lady, Michelle Obama joked that she asked the US team not to win too much. This was in reference to the promotional video poking fun between the Obamas, the Queen and Prince Harry. She also recognised former US President George W. Bush and Mrs. Bush and Ken Fisher.
“I’m here to honor all of you, our extraordinary service members, our veterans and of course, our military families. You all are amazing.”
“Over the last five years through our Joining Forces Initiative, I’ve had the privilege of meeting so many of you. And like Prince Harry, I am so incredibly inspired by all of you. I’m inspired by your courage, by your love of country. I’m inspired by the sacrifices you all make every single day particularly the wounded warriors and the caregivers who show such strength and resilience in the face of challenges that most of us can’t even imagine.”
Oscar winning actor, Morgan Freeman, helped close out the show by introducing three veterans with three different stories of injury and recovery. Each showcasing how that even though some wounds might not be visible, this doesn’t mean the soldier still isn’t enduring their suffering silently. The Invictus Anthem closed out the show; sung by a choir comprised of both US and UK former and current military, the song was brilliantly performed and emotionally moving.
With a focus on mental health, recovery, strength and endurance, the opening ceremonies of the 2016 Invictus games introduced this event with a loud boom, sure to resonate around the world. Bringing with it awareness, a spirit of hope and optimism that will carry forward to the future.