The fifth in line to the throne, who served in the military for 10 years and was in Afghanistan for two military tours, explained to guests at the annual Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Heath Research (CIMVHR) conference why his brainchild, the Invictus Games, were so important, especially to its competitors: "We are dangling a carrot of sporting glory to help reignite qualities which have been worn down by months and often years of fighting. Fighting to find purpose, fighting to reconnect with family, fighting to get fit again, fighting to leave the house and in some cases fighting to stay alive."
Harry, 33, who sported a lightweight grey jacket, white shirt, blue chinos and black suede shoes, continued: "Sport, of course, is not the only answer, but it is a hugely powerful tool. People find motivation and purpose in many different things. But in my mind, there is no denying the impact that teamwork, competition and fun has on someone’s well-being and outlook."
As the Invictus Games is the only international adaptive sports competition for military veterans, it is taking part in a landmark study with CIMVHR that evaluates the short-term and long-term roles of adaptive sport in the rehabilitation of current and former military members. Researcher Celina Shirazipour and her team are interviewing 200 competitors about their experiences.
As Prince Harry listened intently, Celina revealed aspects of the study's preliminary findings, including how the Invictus Games is often a "transformative experience" for competitors and their families. One former competitor told her that he credited his training for the Invictus Games for stopping him thinking of suicide.
The benefits of the Invictus Games appear to extend beyond the competitors and their families into society as a whole. "I have long believed that individuals who wear the uniform are role models for society. Their families understand the true meaning of teamwork, respect, discipline and leadership," Prince Harry told CIMVHR delegates. "And in a world where this is often lacking, I bet the values by which service families live their lives and the example they set for others through these games, is having a profound effect on their communities and far beyond."
On that note, the prince left the multi-day conference for another day of putting theory into motion at the Invictus Games.