The Chancellor has awarded £1 million in LIBOR bank fines to help Prince Harry stage the first international sporting championship for injured servicemen and women.
More than 300 participants will take part in the Invictus Games, a Paralympic-style sporting championship for wounded and sick servicemen personnel, launched by Prince Harry.
The first Games will be held in September at the Copper Box arena in the former Olympic Park, and in venues across London.
Prince Harry said he wanted to stage the event in Britain after attending the Warrior Games in Colorado, an event for injured US service personnel. The competition was “such a good idea by the Americans that it had to be stolen”, he joked.
The Games, which will feature servicemen and women from 13 nations that have fought alongside British troops over the past 15 years.
Prince Harry, a serving Army officer who wore fatigues at the launch, said: "I have witnessed first-hand how the power of sport can positively impact the lives of wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women in their journey of recovery.
"The Invictus Games will focus on what they can achieve post-injury and celebrate their fighting spirit through an inclusive sporting competition that recognises the sacrifice they have made.”
The Games would “have a long-lasting impact” on those who fought for their country, the Prince said.
The Royal Foundation, created by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, will contribute around £1 million for the staging of the Games. George Osborne has agreed to match the Foundation donation with £1 million from the LIBOR fund, levied on banks which manipulated bank lending rates.
The Games organisers said that participation in a sporting event had proven benefits for injured personnel since it gives them a goal to work towards. Unlike the Paralympic Games, families will be invited to join the participants at the Games.
The competing nations include Afghanistan, the US, Australia, Iraq, Germany and Canada and the level of competition will vary from athletes new to adaptive sports to those close to Paralympic level.
The Games venues include the Copper Box, the Aquatic Centre and the VeloPark at the Olympic Park. Track and field disciplines will run at Lee Valley Athletics Centre.
The Prince said the long-term aim of the games, which he hopes will become a regular event, is to ensure servicemen and women - many of whom have lost limbs - are not forgotten by society.
He said: “They see this as opportunity for the next six months to set their minds on a goal to bring themselves back into society when some of them feel now they're disabled, they're pushed aside. They're not - this is so much more.”
Asked how he would reach beyond armed forces families and attract a wider audience, Harry replied: “Let the British public be the deciders of that. The way over the last five or six years the British public has taken to supporting the British forces - the Paralympic Games as well – it’s not about supporting the conflict in Afghanistan, it's not about supporting war, it's not about supporting the forces themselves, but come along show your support, look at the journey these guys have been through.”
Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, said he hoped the games would satisfy public demand to see the kind of “downright violent sporting activities”, such as Wheelchair Rugby, which proved popular at the 2012 Paralympic Games. He offered the use of the Olympic Park after being assured Prince Harry was not intending to stage an “It’s A Royal Knockout”-style event.
Sir Keith Mills, chair of the Organising Committee, said that whilst it took 10 years to prepare for the 2012 Games, the Invictus Games had been put together inside ten months.
Ticket prices have yet to be set for the Games but space will be reserved for the families of military personnel. The Games could travel abroad in future or become a biannual event, Sir Keith suggested.
The Games, endorsed by David Cameron, are named after William Ernets Henley’s poem, Invictus. Captain David Henson, who lost both his legs below the knee in an IED explosion in Afghanistan and hopes to compete in the Games, said: “Competitive sport has made all the difference to my personal recovery and rehabilitation. For a whole international community of ‘brothers in arms’ who flat out refuse to let themselves be beaten by injuries, the Invictus Games will offer an inspiring experience in their journey of recovery.
“We will prove, as Henley’s famous poem so aptly says: I AM the master of my fate. I AM the captain of my soul.”
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