In Düsseldorf, Prince Harry opened the Invictus Games, which he founded for war-disabled athletes, which are taking place in Germany for the first time. “Good evening everyone and welcome to the Invictus Games 2023 here in Düsseldorf,” said the 38-year-old in German and added: “I am a Düsseldorfer.” Around 20,000 spectators in the Merkur Spiel-Arena celebrated him enthusiastically.
The opening ceremony began with the arrival of the national team teams. For the athletes of Ukraine, everyone present rose from their seats and applauded enthusiastically. Federal Defense Minister Boris Pistorius (SPD) recalled in his speech that Ukraine has been defending itself against Russia's war of aggression for one and a half years now. “We must never stop supporting Ukraine in this war, however long it lasts,” Pistorius said. Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) also highlighted Ukraine's special role in a video message. Prince Harry, visibly moved, also praised the commitment and fearlessness of the Ukrainians.
On Friday, Harry visited St. George's Chapel in Windsor in his native England, where his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, who died a year ago, is buried. In the afternoon he arrived at Düsseldorf Airport on a scheduled flight.
Invictus Games, Harry's passion project
The Invictus Games, which run until Saturday and are taking place in Germany for the first time, are considered a passion project for Harry, who left the inner circle of the royal family with his wife, Duchess Meghan (42), a good three years ago. The couple lives in the US state of California with their two children, Prince Archie (4) and Princess Lilibet (2). According to the organizers, Meghan wants to come to Düsseldorf over the next week. Harry will also celebrate his 39th birthday there on Friday.
On Saturday afternoon, Harry and Pistorius entered the city's Golden Book in the Düsseldorf town hall. Mayor Stephan Keller (CDU) welcomed the prominent guests to loud shouts of “Harry! Harry!” from waiting fans. However, there were no selfies or autographs - after a few moments the prince disappeared behind the blue town hall door. Last year, Meghan and he took a lot of time for the fans at the same place. A small group of demonstrators protested against the Invictus Games during Harry's arrival, saying the festival promoted the "normalization of war."
US rapper as a star guest
Harry and Pistorius then drove on to the opening ceremony at the Merkur Spiel-Arena. The US rapper Macklemore appeared there as a musical star guest. In total, more than 500 athletes from 21 countries are taking part in the games. More than 1,000 family members and carers traveled to support them. "Look at your uniform," Harry said in his welcome speech. "It may no longer be a camouflage suit, but you have a flag on your shoulder or your chest again. You and your families - you are part of a team again."
Harry himself served in Afghanistan as an officer in the British Army. According to him, encounters with seriously injured people played a decisive role in initiating the Invictus Games in 2014.
“I think Harry represents values that you should stand up for,” said Madeleine (20), who was one of the first behind the barrier at Düsseldorf City Hall: “He takes care of ex-soldiers. He deals with them ." Denise traveled with her two children, aged 14 and 12, from Dresden to the North Rhine-Westphalian state capital. “I’ve always liked him,” she said. "That he does his own thing."