Prince Harry and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined an enthusiastic, packed house at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre. Kicking off the Invictus Games Toronto 2017 on September 23, the Opening Ceremony featured a lively Parade of Nations, stunning performances and moving stories that the audience won’t soon forget.

By the time the Central Band of the Canadian Armed Forces and La Musique du Royal 22e Régiment opened the live-broadcast show, the excited crowd was dancing in their seats, thanks to the pre-show. As more than 550 competitors from 17 nations entered the stadium, the air in the stadium buzzed with the sense that these Games will be an inspiring event for competitors and their families, volunteers and spectators from around the world.

Team Canada, as Host Nation, entered the stadium last and received a standing ovation from the animated crowd.

Donna Beek

Following a performance of the Canadian national anthem from The Tenors, Prime Minister Trudeau took to the stage to welcome everyone to the Invictus Games Toronto 2017 and led the audience in thunderous applause for the competitors’ families.

“Thank you for your service,” said Trudeau, before reflecting on the impact the Invictus Games will have on spectators. “Thinking about what each of us can do in our lives to make the kind of difference that you make in the world every day. Thank you again for being here.”

Donna Beek

The show also featured stirring speeches by Invictus Games ambassador Mike Myers, Invictus Games Toronto 2017 Organizing Committee CEO Michael Burns, Jaguar Land Rover CEO Dr. Ralf Speth, “Man in Motion” Rick Hansen, who spoke about the spirit of solidarity at the Games, and Captain (retired) Trevor Greene.

Trevor shared his recovery journey, where, with the support of his military family, he made the choice to fight like a soldier and believe in himself after he was struck in the head with an axe during an ambush in Afghanistan. “I chose to be captain of my destiny, master of my fate,” he said, echoing lines from the poem Invictus — the inspiration behind the name of the Games. “All of you were faced with the same choice and you all made the same decision. You chose to believe in yourself — and I believe in you.”

Prince Harry spoke during the Opening Ceremony, making a gallant attempt at French.

He spoke about his interest in starting the Games after his military deployment to Afghanistan in 2008. As he was waiting on a plane, a Danish soldier’s coffin was loaded onto the plane by his friends. There were also three British soldiers in induced comas and with missing limbs on the plane.

At that time, he decided to use his platform to help the public be inspired by those in the military.

The Prince told the roaring crowd that Toronto was hosting the largest Invictus Games yet, with more competitors, more sports, more nations and more people watching at home.

Donna Beek

He spoke directly to the competitors: “Some of you have cheated death and come back stronger than before. You are all winners. You are proving to the world anything is possible.”

Headline performances throughout the night included Alessia Cara with her song “Scars to Your Beautiful,” Laura Wright with the song “Invincible,” which she composed for the inaugural Invictus Games, and Sarah McLachlan, who dedicated her song “In Your Shoes” to the competitors.

The Opening Ceremony came to an end with a performance by La Bottine Souriante after Team Canada co-captains Natacha Dupuis and Simon Mailloux joined His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, to ignite the spirit flame and declare the Invictus Games Toronto 2017 official open.

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