It was an early start for lots of our competitors, with the final day of training taking place, in addition to another day of Ranking Rounds for our Archery competitors. For some of our competitors, their days started in TV studios across London on shows such as BBC Breakfast, Bloomsberg News, Good Morning Britain and the Lorraine Show. Additionally, we had competitors visiting radio stations to do interviews; clearly the nation is eager to hear about the Invictus Games, and interested in our competitors' inspirational stories.
All of our guys and girls are looking strong in training, and we really must give an extra big shout out to all of the wonderful coaches who have been working so hard for so many months to get the absolute best out of each competitor, encouraging them to reach their true potentials. So, coaches: thank you for your hard work, dedication, commitment and knowledge; you guys are amazing and we appreciate you so much.
Over at Mayesbrook our British Team Archers were facing a second day of ranking rounds, which would determine who would go through to the final stages of the competition at Hear East later in the week. There was a bit of a shock result when British Armed Forces Team member Louise – ranked 16th – knocked out Gus – ranked in 1st – in the open novice; it just goes to show that anything can happen on the day so never, ever give up.
However, the main event of the day was the Invictus Games Opening Ceremony, which took place at the Queen Elizabeth Park and was broadcast live on the BBC One Show! Before the Competitors’ Parade everyone was assembled in a holding pen of sorts and it was a great opportunity for the guys and girls to catch up with old friends, and to make new ones. There was a tangible feeling of excitement in the air amongst the competitors as the clock ticked down and we got closer to the start of the Parade.
A magnificent fly-past from the Red Arrows signalled to the assembled nations that the time had come for the Parade to start. The feeling of marching into the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in front of 6500 spectators with our competitors was one that I will never forget. The team at Help for Heroes are lucky enough to call many of these guys and girls friends and we know their stories of sacrifice, determination and unbreakable wills very well. To be amongst them in the moment that that they showed the nation just how they live beyond injury every day, was a moment that caused goosebumps, and a lump in my throat!
The ceremony whizzed by, with displays from the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery, the recitation of William Earnest Henley’s poem, Invictus by Idris Elba and the performance of the Invictus Song, which had been specially penned by Chris Martin of Coldplay.
For me, it was the words spoken by the 1st Lady of the United States of America, Michelle Obama that resonated especially when she said: “Some of the most inspiring moments I have had as First Lady have been when I have met with wounded warriors like so many of you. You tell me how you are not just going to recover; but you are going to thrive.”
HRH Prince Harry carried on the theme by saying: “Over the next four days we will see some truly remarkable achievements. For some taking part this will be a stepping stone to elite sport. But, for others, it will mark the end of a chapter in their recovery and the beginning of a new one.”
All I know is that the British Armed Forces Team is ready; ready to take on the competition and ready to show the world just how sport has the power to transform the lives of so many, in such a wonderful way.