Prince Harry has wrapped up the Sydney Invictus Games full of praise for how the 500 competitors had shown the world how to turn the issue of mental health “from a sad story into an inspiring one”.
Delivering a speech in front of a 12,000-strong crowd at the Games’ closing ceremony on Saturday, Harry thanked the wounded and ill veterans who took part in the week-long event for shining a light on mental health.
He said the success of the Games was not about the medical miracles that had saved so many of the lives of the competitors, many of whom have physical injuries as well mental ones in the form PTSD or depression
Instead, it was because the competitors showed time and time again that mental health was “the real key to recovery”.
“Our competitors have helped turn the issue of mental health from a sad story to an inspiring one,” Harry said.
“They want to live rather than just be alive.”
The prince said while Invictus competitors often were called heroes or legends, they were just ordinary men and women doing extraordinary things and reminding us all that no challenge is too difficult to overcome.
“Nowhere is that truer than in the area of mental health,” he said.
“By simply being here and fighting back from some of the darkest experiences known to anyone, you have become role models for everyone at home.”
Harry was welcomed to the stage with a standing ovation from the audience, with the 500 Invictus competitors from 18 nations cheering him on from the front rows.
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Earlier his wife Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, received just as rousing a welcome as she paid tribute to the hundreds of friends and family who have supported the competitors.
“The support system on the ground here at Invictus is unlike any other. It’s not just cheering on your own but realising that your own becomes everyone in the Invictus family,” she said.
Meghan, wearing a khaki halter neck dress by Antonio Berardi and red poppy, recalled how one of the US team members, Ryan Novak, despite being paralysed from the waist down had defied doctors’ expectations to compete in swimming, athletics and sailing in Sydney.
Meghan grinned as she recalled how she would “never forget” how Ryan had leapt “with dexterity and ease” into a dinghy carrying her and Harry as they watched the sailing contest on Sydney Harbour last Sunday.
Earlier Meghan and Harry cheered along with the crowd at the Qudos Bank Arena as the competitors marched into tunes including Aretha Franklin’s Respect and Cold Chisel’s Khe Sanh.
NSW Governor-General David Hurley drew huge applause by praising Harry for making “three wise decisions” – marrying Meghan, bringing the Invictus Games to Sydney and creating the games to support wounded and ill defence veterans.
Two athletes were singled out for remarkable performances.
New Zealand’s George Nepata picked up the Jaguar Exceptional Performance Award for his inspirational efforts on the wheelchair rugby court when his team was a member down during a match against Australia.
Edwin Vermetten of the Netherlands also took out the Land Rover Above and Beyond Award for helping a British competitor who suffers from PTSD and became distressed by a helicopter flying over Olympic Park.
The closing ceremony was the final public appearance in Australia for Harry and Meghan, who fly out to New Zealand on Sunday for the last leg of their first major overseas tour.