Prince Harry shares his and Meghan's 'personal joy' over soon becoming parents at the Invictus Games opening ceremony in Sydney

Robert Jobson Royal Editor, Ella Wills
AP

The Duke of Sussex today shared his "personal joy" at soon becoming a father as he declared “Game on” for the opening ceremony of the Invictus Games in Sydney.

Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, who was wearing a Stella McCartney dress and coat by X-Files actress Gillian Anderson for Winser London, watched as artists and dancers took to the stage for the dazzling opening event at Sydney Opera House on Saturday.

They had earlier been guests of honour for an evening reception at Sydney Opera House’s Bennelong restaurant officially welcoming the Invictus Games to Sydney.

They then attended the grand opening ceremony for the competition on Saturday evening as more than 500 competitors are due to take part in 13 sports in the Australian city.

It is the fourth Games to be held, following similar events in London, Orlando and Toronto.

Prince Harry speaks onstage at the opening of the competition (PA)

Performers during the ceremony included indigenous Australians carrying boomerangs.

Standing in front of the Opera House Harry said the Queen opened the iconic building 45 years ago and now he was opening the Invictus Games in the same spot.

Finishing his speech he said: "I have been so proud to be able to introduce my wife to you and we have been so happy to be able to celebrate the personal joy of our newest addition with you all."

The couple announced they are expecting their first child in spring as they arrived in Australia last week.

Meghan smiles during the opening ceremony (PA)

To loud cheers he declared the games open. Tomorrow he and the duchess will watch competitors take part in the competition he founded.

Harry, accompanied by three athletes, a Games ambassador and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, climbed the landmark Sydney Harbour Bridge to raise the Invictus flag on the eve of the Games.

Indigenous people perform during the ceremony (REUTERS)

At the opening ceremony, the duke said: "Invictus has become about the example of service and dedication our competitors have provided to the world.

"Our Invictus family has turned these Games into a symbol of strength, honour and optimism for a new generation."

There ceremony got under way an hour later than planned after being hit by a tropical storm that rocked Sydney.

Meghan and Harry were guests of honour at a reception ahead of the ceremony (PA)

Lightning flashed overhead at Sydney Opera House in the hour before the ceremony was due to start, as a storm brought eerie dark clouds, strong winds and heavy rain. Spectators were forced to flee for cover until it passed.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex were guests of honour for an evening reception officially welcoming the Invictus Games to Sydney.

Moments before their arrival a thunder and lightning storm had threatened to put a stop to the Invictus Games Opening ceremony due to health and safety concerns.

Prince Harry practises his opening ceremony Invictus Games speech in front of Meghan (KensingtonPalace2010)

But the the heavy rain came to a sudden stop shortly before the couple were escorted into the venue by Premier of New South Wales Gladys Berejiklian.

“I was a bit worried,” Prince Harry told the Premier as they walked across the room. “Thankfully it looks like the sky is clearing now.”

Meghan, who was wearing a Stella McCartney dress and coat by X-Files actress Gillian Anderson for Winser London, smiled as the Premier told the couple “there a lot of people looking forward to meeting you.”

The Duchess of Sussex attends a reception at Sydney Opera House (PA)

Political figures, Invictus ambassadors and even royalty had gathered to meet the couple at Sydney Opera House’s Bennelong restaurant.

Jordan’s Princess Dina Mired and Prince Mired bin Ra’ad were amongst guests who had broken into small groups to meet the Sussexes during their short visit.

Invictus friends and family ambassador Leesa Kwok, 32, gifted the duchess a small knitted yellow flower when they met. “This is so beautiful,” she remarked.

Harry and Meghan pose with gold medalists Cedric Arci and Michael Ranchin of France and Silver medallists Craig McGrath and Scott Reynolds of Australia during the medal ceremony of the JLR Drive Day (Getty Images)

Kwok, whose husband Jamie Tanner is competing for Australia in the wheelchair rugby and tennis events, told Meghan how 8,500 of the hand-knitted were made especially for the games by a group of elderly war widows from Aged Care (where she works with as an RSL LifeCare Manager).

Earlier in the day Kwok’s son Danyan Jones had raced a remote control truck against Harry at Cockatoo Island during the Jaguar Land Rover Driving Challenge event. “Harry was pleased to hear he would be wearing his medal to the opening ceremony,” said Kwok.

Prince Harry had a laugh with Olympic gold cyclist and Invictus Ambassador Anna Meares when she showed him a newspaper article from 2012 when she beat Britain’s Victoria Pendleton in the 2012 Olympic Games.

Harry and Meghan attended the Jaguar Land Rover Driving Challenge on Day 1 of the Invictus Games on Cockatoo Island in Sydney (EPA)

The duke and duchess spoke to a number of other guests including retired Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe and Australian Prime Minster Scott Morrison and his wife Jennifer.

After 20 minutes they were escorted out of the room to another area of the venue ahead of the Invictus Opening Ceremony, which had been delayed due to bad weather.

A regular Paralympic-style championship for injured servicemen and women was an idea begging to be stolen, Harry said when he originally launched the Invictus Games.

The couple played with children and remote control cars during the challenege (EPA)

He played an instrumental role in bringing the Games to the UK in 2014, when 300 competitors from 13 countries took part in the inaugural competition in London.

A trip to the Warrior Games in Colorado a year earlier had been the inspiration as Harry saw first hand how sport helped inspire recovery and support rehabilitation of wounded troops.

More than 550 competitors from 17 nations competed in 12 sports in 2017's Games in Toronto, which was also notable as being the venue for the first official outing of Harry and his now wife, Meghan.

The couple were seen laughing and smiling as they took in the wheelchair tennis, and he gave the duchess a kiss on the cheek during the closing ceremony at the Air Canada Centre.

Named after Invictus, Latin for "unconquered", the Games are being held in the southern hemisphere for the first time.

The duke's strength of feeling for the forces follows his 10-year full-time military career, during which he went on two tours of duty to Afghanistan and qualified as an Apache Aircraft Commander.

He finished his service after a secondment with the Australian Defence Force in May 2015.

Speaking at the launch of the Sydney Games in June 2017, he said: "The Invictus Games shows us that it is possible to overcome adversity, and that the impossible is possible, if you have the will."

Prince Harry Invictus Games opening speech in full:


“Hello Sydney. Hello Australia. And hello Invictus.

On this day in 1973, my grandmother,

The Queen stood in front of this Opera House and declared it open.

Forty-five years later, to the day, it is my honour to be standing in front of this iconic symbol of Australia’s place in the modern world at the start of the fourth Invictus Games.

I’m sure you’ll all agree that these Games have never had a more beautiful backdrop.

Many of you will have heard me explain the genesis of these Games before.

From my life-changing flight back from the battlefields of Afghanistan, to the example of America’s warrior games, Invictus was inspired by the experiences I had alongside our servicemen and women from many nations.

These Games were created for our men and women in uniform; designed around their talents and their needs; and built not just for them, but also for the friends and families that have supported their recoveries and had their lives changed forever.

Over the last four years though, the Invictus Games have become about much more than the thousands of competitors who have taken part.

Invictus has become about the example of service and dedication our competitors have provided to the world.

Our Invictus family has turned these games into a symbol of strength, honour and optimism for a new generation.

In a few weeks time we will honour the memory of the generation that fought the First World War - including the sacrifices of the ANZACS whose ethos and heroic actions helped forge the character of this great country.

So much has rightly been made of my grandmother’s generation who endured the horrors of the Second World War and then rebuilt a world order around freedom and tolerance.

The legendary bravery and resilience of the Aussie digger - to this day - commands respect and admiration.

And the efforts of your soldiers to defend this nation and support your allies in theatres from the Kokoda Trail, Vietnam and Korea, to Iraq and Afghanistan, have been outstanding.

The values that define this country’s services - courage, endurance, mateship, sacrifice - are an example to all.

But if we’re being honest, we know that in many nations, the place of our men and women in uniform became too often undervalued in the decades after the Second World War.

The sacrifice and character of our troops never changed, but society’s recognition of them too often wavered.

But that has changed.

A new generation - the Invictus generation - is defining what it means to serve. And we are all taking notice.

The Invictus generation has chosen to serve their countries in conflicts that are complex and dangerous and far too often this dedication goes unrecognised.

They have reminded us all what selfless duty really looks like.

With the help of medical science,

the Invictus generation has not only survived injuries that in past conflicts would have been fatal, but has also chosen to fight back from the darkest of places to be here tonight. They have shown us the true meaning of resilience.

When they have been open about their hidden emotional and mental wounds, the Invictus generation has shown us that in today’s world being tough means being honest about how we feel - both inside and out.

When they have taken to the tracks, fields and pools in London, Orlando, and Toronto, the Invictus generation has exemplified sportsmanship, bravery and world class athleticism.

They have shown us all that the most difficult challenges can be overcome.

When the families and friends of our competitors have lifted them up, overseen their recoveries, and cheered them across the finish lines, the Invictus generation has redefined what shared sacrifice means.

They have reminded us all of our duties to each other - to support our mates, to serve our communities, and to respect those closest to us and those whose stories we will never know.

And when all of us have watched the Games on TV or in the stands, we too have become part of the Invictus generation.

We have learned to reject pessimism and cynicism. We have allowed ourselves to be inspired. And we have shared in moments of hope, joy, and triumph that have served as an antidote to the narrative of division and despair we too often allow to define our era.

So when all of you compete over the next week, remember that you do so, not just for yourselves; not just for your families; not just for your nations.

You are competing with different flags on your chest, but you are competing together for one Invictus generation.

You are the unconquered generation. You are the optimistic generation. You are the new generation of service and you are the role models to us all.

And you are going to put on one hell of a show over the next week.

Now before I close, I want to say something directly to our hosts, the people of Australia.

First of all, thank you for the welcome you have given Meghan and I over the last few days.

I have been so proud to be able to introduce my wife to you and we have been so happy to be able to celebrate the personal joy of our newest addition with you all.

But now I have a mission for all of you Aussies. And it’s not how many shrimps you can put on the barbie! Our competitors have made it to these games, most of them travelling from many thousands of miles away.

It’s your job to cheer them on and share their stories. It’s your privilege to watch in the stands or with your friends and families around the television. It’s your responsibility to make sure your children know how amazing these guys and girls really are.

Be inspired. Get excited. Allow the example of service and determination you will see, to change something big or small in your own lives.

Show the world what Game On, Down Under really means.

Australia - let’s show the world how it’s done.”