Prince Harry’s Invictus Games — his adaptive sports competition for veterans and serving armed forces members — is proving to be a lasting legacy.
The reason the Paralympic-style games has captured imagination around the world is because of the royal founder’s laser-like interest in all aspects of the competition.
That’s the opinion of former competitor and captain of Team USA at the 2016 Orlando games, Will Reynolds. Reynolds praised Harry, 34, as being more than a leader with a vision who would sit back and let others create the games.
“When you’re a leader that gives a vision and then you roll up your sleeves and you’re actually on the ground overseeing every aspect of the implementation — that’s the best way to really make sure that something gets quick traction,” Reynolds told PEOPLE at the celebration to mark the 5th anniversary of the first games on Tuesday.
“People know that you’re personally invested and you want to see success. And that’s what he has done since day one. That’s why it has really taken hold. He is very passionate about it.”
With the games taking place in The Netherlands next year, the Invictus Games is set to be held biannually with more nations “queuing up” to host the event, organizers say.
“It has so much steam now that there are so many people who know that this is the right way to not only treat the community but also the issues that arise that is targeting – like mental health. People are going to keep this going for as long as they can,” Reynolds says.
He adds, “I don’t know if they will always be sport-related, but there will be a community targeting these issues and it will be driven by the foundation and all the support that has come from companies and organizations. They will still be getting together to have a symposium or do something, I know that this is going to last the test of time.”
As Prince Harry gave an unscripted emotional speech, Reynolds – who underwent an amputation after an IED shattered his femur and lower half of his left leg in 2004 – said, “It is so celebratory in here. When you start a new venture you never know in the first year how it’s going to take off and what kind of traction its going to get.
“But very quickly, as His Royal Highness said, it has taken off. Thousands of emails have turned into hundreds of thousands of people taking action to take charge of their own personal recovery and look out for those who are going through difficult times. And it’s helping not only service members but their families heal so everybody can heal as a community, which is the best way to heal out in the open. You can’t heal in a closed room, all by yourself.”
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Dominic Reid, chief executive of the Invictus Games Foundation, described Harry as “the beating heart of Invictus.”
He told reporters on Tuesday, “He’s driven this, he is responsible for this. It’s him that always drags us back to what this is about: the competitors, their recovery and their families.”