Prince Harry officially launches countdown to 2017 Invictus Games in Toronto

The buzz in Toronto was palpable as two beloved figures, Prince Harry and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, posed for photos in front of flags representing Canada and the United Kingdom. Justin was welcoming the royal to the city before the duo took their seats in the ballroom at the Fairmont Royal York to celebrate Harry's third annual Invictus Games, which will take place in Toronto in 2017. The pair joined the other speakers at the launch in signing the event's yellow "I AM" statue to officially kick off the countdown to the country's tenure as host.

TAP TO SEE MORE IMAGES FROM THE EVENTPrime Minister Trudeau officially welcomed Prince Harry to Toronto. Photo: © Chris jackson/Getty Images

"I can’t wait to see how Canada embraces the games, especially after today, and rises to the challenge of telling chapter three of the Invictus story," said Prince Harry in his address. "Your support will create a life-changing atmosphere for competitors and spectators alike."

SEE PRINCE HARRY'S VISIT TO A SLEDGE HOCKEY GAME IN TORONTO

The royal shared his story of service, the heartbreak he felt having to leave his troops behind in Afghanistan and the visceral experience of seeing injured soldiers returning home on the same flight. It was then that the idea of the Invictus Games was born, and following the Orlando games over the next few weeks, Canada will take up the torch ahead of the September 2017 event.

Prince Harry addressed the crowd and passed the torch to Toronto. Photo: © Nathan Denette/CP

"Thank you so much for your leadership in this, your openness and your strength," said Prime Minister Trudeau to Harry. He continued that having the sporting competition in Toronto will "allow so many of us to cheer on people who put so much on the line for us," then added "Without his vision, the Invictus Games would not be what they are today."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Prince Harry. Photo: © Chris jackson/Getty Images

The launch kicked off with a heartfelt speech by Councillor Jody Mitic, a former sniper who lost his legs during his service. Host Brian Williams introduced the Canadian team that will be excitedly preparing for next year's main event. Following a First Nations greeting, Chief Executive Officer of the Toronto Invictus Games Michael Burns then made a few remarks, welcoming the royal and sharing his personal anecdotes about his grandfather's time at war. He added to Harry, "A lot has changed since you were last in Toronto 25 years ago. The city has grown exponentially and it's become the most ethnically diverse city in the world." He then joked, "But in case you were wondering, no - you haven't missed any Stanley Cup parades."

Prince Harry spent time with the members of Team Canada. Photo: © Chris jackson/Getty Images

Premier Wynn also shared stories from her grandfather's service and passing in the Somme, before making an exciting announcement. "Ontario is committing $10 million over the next two years in support of the Invictus Games," she said, a pledge that coincides with Canada's 150th anniversary of Confederacy.

Following the launch ceremony, the Queen's grandson will drop by Ryerson's Mattamy Athletic Centre to watch a game of sledge hockey. It will be an exciting and enlightening moment for Harry, who will be introduced to the sport for the first time. Prior to the match he will meet with Canada's national team before participating in the ceremonial puck drop at centre ice.

Prince Harry will then finish up his day in Toronto at the office of the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, the Hon. Elizabeth Dowdeswell. From there he will head to Florida to participate in a charity polo match ahead of the start of the Invictus Games on May 5.

In April, Harry made the exciting announcement that Canada secured hosting duties in 2017. "Today, I am absolutely delighted to announce that the Invictus legacy will continue when Toronto hosts the third Invictus Games in September 2017," he said in a video posted on the palace's official Twitter account.

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