Invictus Games Toronto kicks off with inspiring opening ceremonies

By Patricia Treble

The opening ceremonies for Prince Harry's 2017 Invictus Games Toronto were nothing short of extraordinary. From the parade of more than 500 competitors from 17 nations to Sarah McLachlan's moving tribute to fallen soldiers, the games kick-off left all those in attendance in awe of the strength and bravery of its athletes.

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Team Canada is ready to compete.

Prince Harry enjoyed the show alongside First Lady Melania Trump, who was cheering on the large U.S. team in her first solo trip outside the United States. Beside them were Governor General David Johnston and his wife, Sharon. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Sophie Grégoire Trudeau were seated one row below.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie attended alongside other dignitaries.

As much as Prince Harry was the centre of attention during a busy day of events, the question on everyone’s mind was whether his girlfriend, actress Meghan Markle, would attend the night’s festivities. “Is Meghan coming?” a volunteer asked. “Do you think Meghan will join Prince Harry,” another queried. No one knew for sure until the ceremony started.

The Suits star was discreetly seated in the section next to her boyfriend. She was close enough to Harry for people to notice her but not too close as to take attention away from him and his sporting creation.

Harry's girlfriend Meghan Markle made her royal debut at the opening ceremonies.

The Invictus Games owe its existence to Prince Harry. After two tours of military service in Afghanistan, Captain Wales returned home determined to help disabled military veterans. "I knew it was my responsibility given the great platform that I have to help the world understand and be inspired by the spirit of those who wear the uniform," he told the audience.

He continued: "I wanted to find a way for veterans to be a beacon of light. To inspire people. To follow their example."

The athletes, who Harry said "refuse to be defined by their injuries," will spend the next seven days competing in 12 sports, ranging from archery to power weightlifting.

He pepped up the athletes and the crowds for the upcoming week of events ahead, boasting that Toronto has “more sports, more nations, more friends and families, more fans watching than ever before. We have the biggest crowd that Invictus has ever had.” He finished his short speech on a simple note: “You are all winners. You are all Invictus. Let’s get started.”

The games were officially opened by David Johnston, in one of his final acts as Governor General of Canada. In addition to Canadian and foreign dignitaries, celebrities were eager to show their support. Among those at the opening ceremony were comedian Mike Myers, and singers Alessia Cara and Laura Wright.

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