Invictus Games Opening Ceremony

On September 9, Vice President and Founder of PSF, Dr. Olesya Zaglada, together with representatives of the International School of Düsseldorf, visited the grand Opening Ceremony of the International Invictus Games held in Düsseldorf for wounded, injured and ill, serving and former-serving military personnel. 

The spectacular ceremony was the magnificent start of an eight-day sporting event in and around the Merkur Spiel-Arena. The tone of the show was set right at the beginning with the entrance of the 21 participating nations into the ‘Heart of Invictus.’ Prince Harry thanked Israel, Nigeria, and Colombia in his speech for joining the Invictus Games this year for the first time.

“Heart of Invictus is the incredible story of competitors brought together through service who are now united through sport.” – Prince Harry, The Duke of Sussex, the Patron of Invictus Games Foundation.

Prince Harry, who served in the British Army, created the Paralympics-style competition for veterans and service personnel, with the first event taking place in 2014.

According to the organisers, the purpose of the Invictus Games Foundation is “inspiring recovery through sports, esports and adventurous challenges. Through sport, we change lives, and save lives”. Its aim is also to ensure soldiers who are wounded, injured, and ill, whether in body or mind, enjoy greater recognition and acknowledgement in society and more support on their path to rehabilitation. This year’s game is under the motto: Home for Respect.

The grand Opening Ceremony started with the parade of the national teams following a minute’s silence in remembrance of military personnel who had fallen.

After the ceremonious entrance of nations, the Mayor of the City of Düsseldorf, Dr. Stephan Keller, welcomed everybody in the city and said that, as mayor, he felt privileged to host the Invictus Games, which he saw as: “Much more than a mere sporting event. They represent a celebration of the unbreakable resolve residing within each of the athletes standing before us tonight.” Addressing the competitors, he conveyed that as we embarked on this incredible journey, we will be witnessing their unwavering strength. As audience members, he continued, we will observe them pushing their limits once more, all the while acknowledging that the challenges they have overcome are far greater  than we could ever imagine.

He assured the competitors that Düsseldorf would “do everything to give those who have given so much a Home for Respect.”

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz welcomed everybody in his video message in which he said: “Invictus shows the power of sport to heal and recover, to come together and grow stronger every day. The message coming from these games and indeed from each and every one of you is: Never give up! You are ‘invictus – undefeated.’” 

After the welcoming speeches of Germany’s Federal Minister for Defence, Boris Pistorius, and Boeing Government Operations Executive Vice President, Ziad Ojakli, it was time for a most moving, emotional and inspirational speech from Prince Harry. As the Duke of Sussex and Founder of the Games, it was the highlight of the grand Opening Ceremony.

The Prince encouraged all competitors to unlock their potential and remember the feeling of pride and honor they experienced when they first wore their nations’ flags on their uniforms. Now that all the participants have their uniforms again, Harry pointed out, “Look at your uniform now. This may no longer be a camouflage suit, but you again have a flag on your shoulder or your chest.”

He continued: “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.” The Invictus Games founder then encouraged the crowd to “break those ceilings” and “plough down the highest of walls” to “make space for what’s deserved.”

Harry encouraged the participants: “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.”

PSF wishes good luck to all participants of the Invictus Games!