Prince Harry closed out the 2016 Invictus Games Thursday night with a star-studded closing ceremony that included performances from Rachel Platten, Rascal Flatts and Flo Rida and a spectacular fireworks presentation.
“You are all Invictus,” Harry told service members and veterans from around the world who gathered at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World in Orlando, Florida, over the past week to compete in dozens of athletic competitions.
“You are now ambassadors for the spirit of these games. Spread the word. Never stop fighting and do all you can to lift up everyone around you,” Harry said before adding, “I’ll see you in Toronto.”
Harry, 31, himself a veteran, created the Paralympic-style Invictus Games as a way to draw attention to and inspire wounded servicemen and women. Harry was an ever-present force at the games in Orlando, cheering the athletes on and even supporting the games’ four-legged competitors.
Harry attended the service dog swimming relay on Thursday and greeted the sopping wet dogs as they jumped out of the pool.
A last minute event - let's not forget the 13 service dogs here who always provide huge support to their owners.https://t.co/qIRB8J0vXL— Invictus Games (@WeAreInvictus) May 12, 2016
At Thursday night's closing ceremony, the prince presented the Invictus medallion to every competitor.
"I’ve been hugely honored to hand out gold silver and bronze medals over the course of this competition, but what meant the most to me, was handing out your Invictus Foundation medallions this evening," Harry said Thursday. "Those medallions are the real prizes, for the years of intense rehabilitation you’ve put yourselves through to be here."
Prior to the Games, Prince Harry, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama challenged their respective U.S. and U.K. teams to perform their best, tweeting video mesages in a lighthearted Team USA vs. Team Great Britain battle for gold.
Although the U.S. edged out the U.K. in the final medal count, the competition was about much more than medals. In the end, it was about the indomitable Invictus spirit that carried the way, about overcoming obstacles and surmounting life's greatest challenges.
"What inspired me was the courage to make it to the starting line, to take to the field or to dive into that pool, motivated by the goal of giving your all, medal or no medal," Prince Harry told the competitors. "You showed your families, your friends and yourselves just how far you’ve come, regardless of the result."
"For the past four days the world has watched as some of the finest athletes and warriors carried their country’s flag in competitions against others who truly know the meaning of duty and sacrifice," Biden said.
The next Invictus Games will be held in Toronto in September 2017.