Prince Harry official opened the Invictus Games in Germany with a jokey reference to his wife Meghan and the little known discovery that she was of Nigerian descent.
After welcoming the Nigerian team to their first games for disabled and wounded military veterans he told the audience at a packed indoor arena that matters at his home would be more competitive.
His reference to Meghan’s Nigerian heritage came at the end of a seven-minute speech welcoming those taking part in the weeklong sports event.
Harry said: I’m not saying we have favourites in my home, but since my wife discovered she is of Nigerian descent, its going to be a little more competitive this year.’
It was the only mention of his wife who is expected to join her husband later in the week.
Prince Harry opened the 6th Invictus Games with a rousing speech for veterans amid roars of approval from spectators
The Duke of Sussex said: ‘There are endless opportunities to have your hearts touched and lives opened’
Prince Harry (right) and German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius laugh during the opening ceremony of the 2023 Invictus Games
The German defence minister appeared to be deep in discussion with the Duke of Sussex as they watched the opening ceremony
The delegation of United Kingdom arrives during the opening ceremony of the 2023 Invictus Games
Canadian fans during The Parade of Nations at the Opening Ceremony at Merkur Spiel-Arena
The flamboyant Parade of Nations is among the highlights during the Opening Ceremony
Last year at the Games in The Hague Meghan had taken a starring role with a gushing speech introducing her husband to the audience.
Meghan had revealed details of her heritage in one of her podcasts.
She said she had discovered she was of 43% Nigerian having had her genealogy investigated a couple of years ago.
The 41 year old told her audience she was going to dig deeper into her genealogy in the podcast called ‘Upending The Angry Black Woman Myth.’
Harry, wearing a grey suit and open neck shirt, had walked out on to the stage at the Merkur Spiel arena to huge cheers from the crowd.
He gave an American style salute to the US team sitting in the front row of the arena.
As the audience cheered he introduced himself in German to cheers by saying ‘Ich Bin ein Dusseldorfer.’
The phrase had been used by President John F Kennedy in 1963 soon after the Berlin Wall had been erected and the Cold War with Russia begun.
Nigeria is among the nations participating in the Invictus Games for the first time this year
Colombia is also among the newly participating nations in the annuals games for veterans
The Dutch delegation arrives during the opening ceremony of the 2023 Invictus Games
The speech and phrase has gone down in history as one of the most famous ever delivered by the assassinated President.
Harry began his speech by commenting on how fast the past year has gone- saying they had gone from waffles in Holland to Schnitzels in Germany.
Harry told the wounded and disabled veterans they had earned the respect of everyone who would be attending the games.
He urged them to unlock their potential and once again enjoy working as a team as they had done while serving in the military.
You and your families are once again part of a team surrounded by people to know what it is like to serve. They see and know you and respect you through a a shared experience.’
Harry singled out a member of the Ukrainian team called Tyra who was absent from last year’s games after being captured by the Russians.
She featured in the Netflix documentary ‘Heart of Invictus’ and was freed after three months being held as a prisoner of war.
Harry told her she embodied the spirit of the game and saluted her courage and resilience adding:’ We missed you last year.’
The packed arena had earlier observed a minute’s silence in remembrance for military personnel who had died.
Three members of the German military walked on stage to silence carrying a lighted candle with the words ‘We Remember’ on the side.
Prince Harry was all smiles as he arrived for the opening ceremony of his Invictus Games in Germany
The Italian delegation arrives during the opening ceremony of the 2023 Invictus Games
An enthusiastic standard bearer leads the way for the Georgian delegation at the Invictus Games
The Danish delegations makes its way through the Parade of Nations during the Opening Ceremony
The 90 minute emotion charged opening ceremony began with each of the 21 teams entering the arena to wild cheers and clapping.
The audience were told each of the teams had chosen their own song to enter the arena – with Australia coming on stage to the song ‘I come from a land down under’ by Men at Work
The UK team chose Mountain by Sam Ryder who will be performing at the closing ceremony in a week’s time while the host nation Germany were last to enter the arena.
The biggest cheer of the night came for the appearance on stage of the Ukrainian team.
They were one of the last teams to enter the arena prior to the opening address by Prince Harry.
The Prince said: ‘This year’s games is a home for respect, think about what that word means…
‘Some people may act as if respect is something veterans are asking for, that people with injuries whether visible or invisible, have to demonstrate that they are worthy of it.’
Harry then referred to a participant in the recent Heart of Invictus Netflix series, who was quoted as saying: ‘I don’t think we overcome disabilities, we overcome perceptions of ourselves in society.’
A man holds sign in protest against Prince Harry who in his autobiography described killing 25 Taliban in Afghanistan
The biggest cheer of the night was heard during the Ukrainian delegation’s appearance in the Pride of Nations
Team New Zealand attends the opening ceremony of the Invictus Games
South Korean veteran wave their flags during the opening ceremony in Dusseldorf
Prince Harry’s speech in full
Well that year went fast!
We went from stroopwaffles to schnitzels in a blink of an eye!
Remember that feeling of pride and honour when you first wore your nations flag on your uniform? Most of us perhaps remember more its final outing, or the time we hung it up for good.
Am I right in saying for some it represented a cape, perhaps a shield or an escape? For others an opportunity, a recognition, or a calling? No matter what it meant to you then, or your reasons for signing up, it was always about being of service to others and your mates.
You discovered things about yourself you never knew. Skills and abilities you didn’t know you had. You unlocked your potential and performance. And you understood the power of working as a team.
Ultimately, you were part of a purpose larger than yourself, and that feeling felt good!
I’m guessing a lot of you in this stadium tonight have felt the absence of that feeling for months, maybe years. Well, not anymore.
Look at your uniform now. Go on, look at it.
It may no longer be camouflage and instead an assortment of bright colors, but that flag is once again on your shoulder or chest.
You, and your families, are once again part of a team, surrounded by people who know what it means to serve, who have a good idea of what it’s taken to get here, who see and know you, and who respect you through a shared experience.
This year’s Games is a Home for Respect.
Think about that word for a second. Respect. What does it mean to you? What does it look like? What does it feel like? Some people may act as if respect is something veterans are asking for; that people with injuries – whether visible or invisible – have to demonstrate they are worthy of it.
Some of you here may sometimes feel that way about yourselves; that you have something to prove.
But I’ve been thinking about something one of the competitors featured in Heart of Invictus shared. Mr Na, from South Korea said: “I don’t think we overcome disabilities, we overcome perceptions of ourselves in society.”
These games are not solely about medals,
PBs or finishing lines – they are about overcoming any and all perceptions that have held you back, especially those you’ve placed on yourselves. Because all of this, all of us – are here because of you.
This isn’t a gift. This isn’t a handout. This is yours. Take it. One of my favorite parts of being at the Games is getting to reconnect with familiar faces and meet new ones.
I want to take a moment to recognize Team Ukraine and one very special person in particular, Taira. I don’t think I have ever met someone as courageous and resilient as Taira. Where are you Taira?
I think I can speak for everyone when I say that you embody the true spirit of Ukraine and of Invictus.
It’s so good to see you and feel your energy in person. We really missed you last year!
We’re also so excited to have new nations join us.
Let’s hear it for Colombia, Israel and Nigeria!
I’m not saying we play favorites in our home, but since my wife discovered she is of Nigerian descent, it’s likely to get a little more competitive this year!
And to every fierce competitor in this arena, I have one last ask of you – that you grasp every opportunity and revel in it.
Because in your joy, in your happiness, in your achievement, we all benefit. It is a gift that as people, we can find joy in the pursuit of our aspirations,
and also provide it unknowingly to others along the way.
You may well be the person someone is looking to for inspiration, because you haven’t let fear control you.
Whether competitor or spectator, you will all take so much away from these Games. There are endless opportunities to have your lives touched and hearts opened. The energy alone is palpable and contagious. Lean into it and keep it close. Let it inspire the limitless in you.
Remember you are not only watching or participating
in sport but experiencing the magic of the human spirit – learning first hand from those who live not bound by their journey but instead freed by it.
So, to our Invictus community – You have my respect.
Respect for your qualities as humans. Respect for maintaining our values and principles. Respect for your abilities and your achievements. Are you ready? I said, are you ready? Let’s do this!!!
The prince added: ‘These games are not solely about medals, PBs or finishing lines, they are about overcoming all and any perceptions that have held you back.’
Earlier, he sat next to German defence minister Boris Pistorius and they appeared to be in animated conversation as they viewed the flamboyant Parade of Nations in Dusseldorf.
Over 500 people stood in the blazing sunshine as they stood behind barriers hoping the Prince would go on a walkabout and greet them. They shouted his name as he walked in a lightweight blue suit, white shirt and silver tie.
Representatives from the 21 nations competing in the Invictus Games waited inside the town hall for his arrival.
A small group of demonstrators shouted out anti military slogans but as soon as Harry’s car pulled into the market square in front of the town hall they were drowned out by cheers from his fans.
Prince Harry’s bodyguard, ex Secret Service agent Chris Sanchez kept a close eye on Harry as he walked the short distance from his car to the town hall.
Among the crowd was 20-year-old superfan Madeleine Durant who had driven two hours from her home in Dortmund to see Harry.
She held up a yellow banner saying ‘Harry, I came all the way to take a photo with you’. She said: ‘I am a big fan of Harry and hope that he sees the banner and comes over. I really do like him as he speaks the truth.’
About six people demonstrating against the German military’s involved in the games for disabled and wounded military vets held a demonstration in a corner of the market square.
Police outnumbered the half dozen demonstrators who have claimed the Games will be used by the military to enlist new recruits.
One of the demonstrators held a banner with the words ‘Bomber Harry’ – a reference to his time in Afghanistan as an Apache helicopter gunner.
The estranged royal, who founded the sporting event for wounded and injured servicemen, also posed for a picture with volunteers and competitors just a day after he attended a private memorial for his grandmother Queen Elizabeth II.
Wearing a black T-shirt and looking relaxed Harry stood the middle of the group. The visit to the Merkur Spiel-Arena in Düsseldorf was unannounced.
The Duke of Sussex, who went on the solo whirlwind trip to the UK without his wife and children, was spotted leaving St George’s Chapel in Windsor at lunchtime yesterday.
The fifth in the line to the throne was photographed paying respects to the Queen by a tourist in a shock secret visit to the church, where the late monarch was laid to rest.
He then flew last night to Dusseldorf in Germany for the opening ceremony of his Invictus Games.
The Duke is booked into a £2,000 night suite with stunning views across The Rhine and will be joined later in the luxurious residence next week by his wife Meghan.
The expansive suite on the 17th floor of the Hyatt Regency hotel in Dusseldorf will be their base for the next eight days.
The Invictus Foundation posted a photo of the team group shot on their Twitter account. The group Harry posed with carry out assessments of the athletes and their recovery.
With temperatures expected to be in the high 80s there has been concern among organisers for those taking part in outdoor events, such as the athletics and archery.
Many of the sports for disabled and wounded military veterans will take place inside the indoor arena.
Tonight he will launch the sports event for wounded and disabled military veterans and attend the week long event, dropping in to cheer of competitors in events such as archery, swimming and wheelchair rugby.
Over 500 competitors from 21 countries are taking part in the games which are sponsored by the US based Boeing firm.
Organisers predict up to 100,000 people will attend the games which will close with a speech from Prince Harry and a set of six songs from singer Rita Ora.
Teams from around the globe have all arrived in Dusseldorf and were met at the airport by the mascot of the Games, a brown bear with the name Buddy.
The UK team and friends and family flew from Birmingham on a RAF transport jet. The 59 members of the include 15 who are still serving in the military while the others are retired from service.
The team UK Captain, Lt Commander James Rogers said: ‘ Whether a veteran or still serving, we are one team heading into the Games and I am immensely proud of how much everyone has achieved in this process. It has brought with it a sense of camaraderie and excitement, as well as noticeable physical and mental health benefits.’
Wearing a white shirt and smart trousers, Harry looked sombre yesterday as he left a side entrance of St George’s Chapel as family, Britain and the world again mourned the Queen’s passing. It is not known if he went to Her Majesty’s grave in the King George VI Memorial Chapel, which sits within the walls of the church.
Harry was seen by the public leaving the church where his grandparents are both buried at around Midday. An executive Range Rover was waiting for him with his bodyguard waiting to open the door.
A number of members of the Royal Family are understood to have visited the chapel yesterday. Harry remains close to his cousins Beatrice and Eugenie but it is not yet known if they and others paid their respects together. MailOnline has asked Buckingham Palace and a spokesman for the Duke of Sussex to comment.
The warring brothers are spending the first anniversary of their grandmother’s death in the same country – but still couldn’t be farther apart and did not meet before Harry jetted off to Germany last night.
20-year-old Madeleine Durant (left) drove two hours from her home in Dortmund to see Harry
Harry pictured walking into the reception with Stephen Keller, Mayor of Dusseldorf
Prince Harry also met with British competitors at Invictus Games in Germany earlier today
Prince Harry waves as he walks into the reception at the city’s town hall
A Prince Harry fan waits eagerly ahead of the Duke’s arrival
Fans pictured as the Duke of Sussex arrives at the town hall
Grinning Prince Harry (centre) poses with volunteers at the start of the Invictus Games in Germany
Prince Harry leaves St George’s Chapel in Windsor yesterday lunchtime to mark the first anniversary of the Queen’s death. Her Majesty is buried there alongside her husband Prince Philip
Prince Harry arriving at the five-star Hyatt Regency hotel in Dusseldorf yesterday before he launches the 2023 Invictus Games today
Prince Harry flew to Germany for the Invictus Games after a shock secret visit to the Windsor church where the Queen was laid to rest
Harry is believed to have gone straight from the church where he married Meghan Markle in 2018 to Heathrow to catch a British Airways flight to Düsseldorf, where he is pictured
Harry is driven into the Hyatt Regency hotel in Dusseldorf yesterday after his quick trip to Britain
The Duke of Sussex was at his personable best in London on Thursday as he met winners of the WellChild Awards – a charity he has been patron of for 15 years and stayed with after his acrimonious departure from the Royal Family.
Harry flew in for the engagement from his home in California, making his first appearance in the UK since June.
But despite the long flight, the duke cut a relaxed figure as he sat with the youngsters and their families during a pre-ceremony reception at The Hurlingham Club in south-west London.
It was as Harry prepared for the awards this time last year that news began filtering through that his grandmother was seriously ill before passing away hours later. The duke took a flight to Scotland but landed too late to see the Queen before she passed away.
‘As you know, I was unable to attend the awards last year as my grandmother passed away,’ he told the audience.
‘As you also probably know, she would have been the first person to insist that I still come to be with you all instead of going to her. And that’s precisely why I know, exactly one year on, she is looking down on all of us tonight, happy we’re together continuing to spotlight such an incredible community.’