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Harry looks forward to 'amazing' Invictus Games in 'awesome' Orlando venue

Published 07/05/2016

Prince Harry chats to Team USA Athlete Michael Kacer ahead of the Invictus Games 2016 at ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Florida (Invictus Games 2016/PA)
Prince Harry chats to Team USA Athlete Michael Kacer ahead of the Invictus Games 2016 at ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Florida (Invictus Games 2016/PA)

On the eve of the Invictus Games, Prince Harry has spoken about his hopes for the "amazing" tournament and acknowledged the pressure of maintaining the event's legacy.

The 31-year-old said he may have set the bar too high with the inaugural games staged in London in 2014 but, after touring the Florida venues on Friday and chatting to competitors, he declared the sporting facilities in Orlando "awesome".

The opening ceremony of this year's games will be staged on Sunday, with First Lady Michelle Obama among the guests, and the show will feature Hollywood star Morgan Freeman, British singer James Blunt and soprano Laura Wright.

Harry has been the driving force behind the Paralympic-style event for injured servicemen and women and veterans and over the five-day tournament more than 500 athletes from 14 countries will compete in a range of sports.

The Prince told the Press Association: "It's going to be amazing, the atmosphere is going to be incredible.

"There's still a few more tickets to sell but we're just inviting people to come down and enjoy what's going to happen, it's going to be fantastic.

"Speaking to all the competitors, they're very happy, the food's great - which is what they care about - the accommodation is excellent. Once they're over the jet-lag they just want to get going."

The London Invictus Games were held in the former Olympic park and were well received by competitors and spectators.

Harry added: "One of the hardest things is having to follow on from London.

"Naturally what we did, we went to the top straight away which we probably shouldn't have done - but this place is awesome, it's built for purpose, the weather is obviously going to be a huge factor in bringing thousands of people out."

For some of those competing in events like sitting volleyball, wheelchair basketball or athletics, the activities will not only aid their physical recovery, after losing limbs while fighting in Afghanistan, but the mental trauma they suffered.

Former US president George W Bush will present a symposium about the "invisible wounds'' of war, such as post-traumatic stress, and the Prince will join him at the start of the day-long event held before the Invictus opening ceremony.

Harry is patron of the Invictus Games Foundation, which overseas the delivery of the Games and their legacy, and he stressed they had to maintain the "brand" they had created.

With the countdown to the Toronto Invictus Games in 2017 already under way, the Prince said: "We're sorted for next year - almost sorted for the year after, and 2019 is the time we really need to start working out what's best for the brand, what's best for the blokes and everybody else as well.

"You know we've created this incredibly strong brand that means so much to so many people.

"But even if the individuals themselves have used it and therefore don't need it anymore - which is a great success - there's still a load of people, kids, all sorts of people with different adversity in their lives that this brand means so much to.

"So there's a lot of pressure on us and a lot of responsibility to make sure that we ensure the legacy post the 2018-19 games is going to be really good."

Harry stressed that an important part of the event was having the competitors' families in America, and the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando was chosen as the venue because it is close to Disney attractions which would appeal to relatives.

He added: "Obviously anybody else in this position would think growth, growth, growth - big, big, big, big - but it's not what it's about.

"If we can encourage more and more people to hear about it, know about it, watch it on television then that's fine.

"This has to be about the competitors and their families and the kids having fun in Disney world while the guys can concentrate on winning medals and supporting their team-mates."

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