Britain’s Prince Harry and US first lady Michelle Obama mixed with headline acts from music and film to launch the second edition of the Invictus Games for wounded military personnel on Sunday.
British singers James Blunt and Laura Wright performed at the two-hour ceremony before Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman led the crowd at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Champion Stadium in reciting the Invictus Games pledge.
Former US President George W Bush, the honorary chairman of this year’s Games, also spoke on stage to the near 500 athletes from 14 different countries who will compete over four days from Monday in 11 Paralympic sports.
Harry, who started the Games two years ago in London, paid tribute to the courage of the athletes, who paraded through an interactive 3-D cube decorated in their country’s colours to warm applause.
“When we give a standing ovation to the competitor with the missing limbs, let’s also cheer our hearts out for the man who overcame anxiety so severe he couldn’t leave his house,” the 31-year-old royal told the crowd.
“Let’s cheer for the woman who fought through post-traumatic stress.”
That spirit was echoed by Obama, who thanked US veterans for their service.
“I’m here and honour all of you: our extraordinary service members, our veterans, and of course our military families. You all are amazing. Truly amazing,” she said.