ORLANDO, Fla (FNN News) – ESPN Wide World of Sports’s Champion Stadium was filled to overflow for Prince Harry’s 2nd Invictus Games Opening Ceremony Sunday evening. The international athletic competition, co-sponsored by Disney and Jaguar Land Rover, celebrates wounded warriors and their unconquerable will to overcome their injuries—physical and invisible—to push themselves to excellence through sport. First Lady Michelle Obama, Morgan Freeman, and former president George W. Bush were on hand to support Prince Harry and the many veterans who have served their nations. “This [veterans] is a cause I have been fighting for and will fight for for the rest of my life,” the First Lady declared while welcoming Prince Harry and the competitors. Internationally renowned singer Lauren Wright performed “Invincible” and was the featured soloist for Gareth Malone’s choir, comprised of wounded warriors who performed an original song, “Flesh and Blood.” British recording artist James Blunt fueled the crowd with his performances, including the immortal hit, “You’re Beautiful,” which he dedicated to Mrs. Obama.
During the ceremony, the Invictus Games flag was delivered by helicopter by Staff Sergeant August O’Niell, who was fatally wounded in Afghanistan and was retired from service. However, he refused to accept his fate and underwent several surgeries as well as months of physical therapy and successfully returned to duty. His appearance on the Invictus Games stage netted him a standing ovation. The flag was brought from England to the U.S., then presented to the First Lady, who in turn brought it with her to Patrick Air Force Base.
Prince Harry first launched the Invictus Games in 2014 after having served in Afghanistan. His turning point was flying with three dead servicemembers. He said it was then that he learned the true cost of war. He learned the military culture and embraced it, despite his privilege. “The one thing they [veterans] all share is sport,” he explained to the audience. To the competitors, he said, “My admiration for you is limitless. I am proud to call you my friends.”
Some 500 competitors from 14 nations descended on Orlando this week to display their athletic prowess in the face of missing limbs and the powerful struggle for mental peace.
The nations represented in this year’s Invictus Games:
– New Zealand
– United Kingdom
– United States
The opening ceremony celebrated the beauty, professionalism, and unyielding spirit of those who have served and those who are still serving, and opened the world’s eyes to what’s possible when a man or woman chooses to look beyond his or her own pain—or better yet, uses it—to push for something greater. The games will take place from May 8 to May 12, 2016 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. The closing ceremony takes place May 12 at 7pm back at Champion Stadium.
Mellissa Thomas is Editor of the Florida National News. The Jamaica-born author and journalist is a decorated U.S. Navy veteran with degrees in Entertainment Business and Film. She also helps business owners, CEOs, executives, and speakers double their income and clinch the credibility they deserve by walking them step by step through the process of developing, completing, marketing, and publishing their first book.