The Invictus Games has begun with a glittering ceremony in the US
Four days of international competition have commenced following the event at Walt Disney World Resort last night
Prince Harry’s Invictus Games got underway with a moving and uplifting opening ceremony.
Showcasing performances by US troops and inspiring stories from our wounded, injured and sick personnel, the ceremony at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at the Disney resort also included some surprise moments.
Prince Harry was joined on the stage by Michelle Obama, followed by actor Morgan Freeman, in front of an audience of thousands.
The event was opened with a fanfare by the US Army Herald Trumpets, followed by a flyover by four F-18 Hornet jets. There was also performances by the US Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corp and the US Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon.
Afterwards there was the main moment of the parade of nations, where competitors, support staff and their friends and family entered through a huge, yellow cube at the centre of the stage.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, who was at the ceremony, said:
Competitors from all nations have shown huge strength in the face of life-changing injuries or illnesses and over the coming days we will see some remarkable achievements. Sport plays a major part in the recovery process and I am sure that the UK team will be giving it their all in a bid to bring home a haul of medals.
On a giant screen the audience was shown footage of wounded service personnel overcoming adversity, moving from despair to success through the medium of sport.
The next part of the ceremony focused on the Invictus flag; Prince Harry handed American team captain Will Reynolds, a retired US Army captain, the flag in London last month. Serving American Staff Sergeant August O’Neill stunned the crowds by bringing it to the ESPN stadium on a Blackhawk helicopter.
There was also the much-anticipated performance by Gareth Malone’s Invictus Choir – the focus of a new BBC documentary. They performed Flesh and Blood, which was composed for the ceremony, accompanied by 20 US Servicemen and women.
UK Army veteran James Blunt was the headline act - he performed six songs while footage he filmed on deployment was screened behind him.
Retired Royal Marine Commando JJ Chalmers and serving Royal Marine Commando Louis Nethercott then took to the stage, introduced by Mr Morgan. The Marines outlined their personal stories of physical and mental challenges.
Prince Harry said:
I had to create the Invictus Games - to build a platform for all those who have served to prove to the world what they have to offer. You will be inspired. You will be moved.
Mrs Obama said:
I am here to honor all of you, our extraordinary service members, veterans and of course our military families. You are all truly amazing. I am inspired by your courage. I am inspired by the sacrifices you make every single day.
The Invictus pledge was then read by Oscar-winner Mr Morgan, with all the competitors and spectators standing to recite it with him.
The grand finale brought the emotional evening to an end. A 150-strong choir was unveiled standing in the vertical, yellow cube. They sang the Invictus Anthem, written by Coldplay’s Chris Martin, with fireworks as a backdrop to mark the end of the performance.