Prince Harry visits Canada

His Royal Highness meets with Prime Minister Trudeau and others in Toronto this morning to celebrate the launch of next year's Invictus Games.
Prince Harry in 2014 (©Antonio Nardelli | @Dreamstime)

A royal visit in Canada is often a cause for a big fuss. Any arrival of Queen Elizabeth, as well as visits like when Prince William and Princess Kate came in 2011, bring lots of buzz as the tour moves across the country.

Today's visit, from William's younger brother Prince Harry, is a bit of a quieter story. This is maybe not so surprising since it's a pretty quick visit. But this short trip has a very specific purpose, and, as it turns out, it's about a pretty awesome cause: The Invictus Games, which will come to Toronto in September 2017. (More on that soon!)

Now make no mistake. Even for such a brief trip, the young prince can still bring out some big names. The kickoff event, which happened this morning at the Fairmount Royal York hotel in downtown Toronto, was attended by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, and Toronto Mayor John Tory, along with many guests and curious onlookers. And to make the event complete, bagpipers from the 48th Highlanders Band were also there (because let's face it: bagpipes rule).

An inspirational event

But let's get back to something that you may have been wondering. Just what are the Invictus Games? They are an international, multi-sport competition for veterans and soldiers who have become injured or wounded. (The word "invictus" is Latin meaning "unconquered".) Harry helped found the event in 2013 after he attended the Warrior Games, which is a similar event for soldiers in the United States military.

The first Invictus Games were held in London in 2014 and featured 14 countries. This month, the second games will be held in Orlando, Florida. Toronto's Invictus will be the third time the games have been held, and will feature over 600 competitors from 16 countries. Having them in 2017 will mean they become a part of Canada's 150th anniversary as a nation.

"2017 is a year steeped in rich Canadian military history, marking the anniversaries of historic battles that shaped and defined the nation," said Prince Harry in a video that was released in March.

The biggest yet

At today's event, His Royal Highness promised that the Toronto games would be "the biggest yet" and he was joined by pledges of funding from the Ontario government, as well as a visit from about 30 members of Canada's Invictus team. These athletes will soon leave to compete in Orlando.

The best part of all of this is the hope it gives to those who have fought and been injured in combat. In countries like Canada and the United States veteran affairs (which is the term given to how former soldiers are cared for by their government) is a serious issue. Many people argue that it needs to be improved. At the Invictus launched, speakers talked about how sports can give these veterans and soldiers the chance to feel like they're a part of society again. All of which makes this kind of low-key royal visit a pretty terrific one to celebrate.

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