Prince Harry thanked Germany on Saturday at the closing ceremony of the Invictus Games, the sporting event for disabled war veterans led by the British royal.
“Many thanks to all the people of Dusseldorf and many thanks to Germany for these fantastic Games,” Harry said during the closing ceremony at Dusseldorf’s Merkur Spiel Arena, where the games were held.
Visibly moved and at one point almost holding back tears, Harry told the crowd about the meetings he had had with individual participants. Many athletes had seen the “darkest places” imaginable. The fact that they managed to find their way back to life after traumatic experiences and injuries was an example to the world.
The organizers of the Invictus Games may have provided the platform, but the magic was provided by the participants themselves, he said.
Towards the end of his speech, Harry repeated this time in English: “Germany, thank you very much!”
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier also spoke at the ceremony, recalling the scars that the war in Ukraine will leave on his people and praising the Ukrainian team present at the Games.
“As Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, soldiers are also being wounded or killed on the battlefield defending their homeland in these hours and minutes as we meet here,” Steinmeier said.
“An infinite number of people will also return from this war wounded and scarred for life,” the German president added.
“We support the Ukrainians in their heroic struggle to ensure that Putin’s Russia does not win this war,” he stressed.
Steinmeier also thanked Prince Harry for launching the Invictus Games nine years ago as someone who had fought in a war himself.
Harry, who served as an officer in the British Army in Afghanistan, launched the Invictus Games after encountering seriously wounded soldiers.
The games are for soldiers “wounded in body and soul” in battle.
“Through the power of sport, the Invictus Games supports the recovery and rehabilitation of participating servicemen and women,” the event website states.
The games, held for the sixth time, saw the participation of over 500 participants from 21 countries competing in 10 disciplines.
Steinmier expressed his gratitude to the Bundeswehr and the city of Dusseldorf for making it possible for Germany to host the Games for the first time this year.
The first Invictus Games took place in 2014 in London.
German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius also attended the celebrations and said he was open to the idea of a German Veterans Day.
He wants to use the tailwinds of the Invictus Games to further strengthen social awareness of the merits of servicemen and women, Pistorius said at the end of the festival on Saturday.
“To this end, it might also be useful to introduce a Veterans Day,” Pistorius said, adding, however, that the initiative should be taken by Parliament.
The idea of an annual Veterans Day has been proposed several times by the Association of the German Armed Forces.
Pistorius praised the Invictus Games as a “festival of optimism and strength”, saying all participants deserved the utmost respect.
He enjoyed the Games and was deeply moved by meetings with the athletes, Pistorius said.
The mayor of Dusseldorf, Stephan Keller, also said that the city appreciated the event which created “an incredible atmosphere in the stadium for the whole week”.
Harry also celebrated his 39th birthday during his trip to Germany, together with his wife Meghan.