Prince Harry hopes UK can host games for injured troops

Competitor Maurillia Simpson: "Harry is just like one of us"

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Prince Harry has said he hopes to bring America's Warrior Games for injured servicemen and women to the UK.

The prince took part in a torch-lighting ceremony at the opening of the games on the third day of his US tour.

He said he believed the spectacle of ex-military athletes competing against each other would attract huge crowds.

Almost 300 injured servicemen and women from the UK and US are competing in this year's games.

The opening ceremony was staged in the open air at the United States Olympic Training Centre in Colorado Springs, with competitors watching as the torch was carried around them.

When it was passed to Captain Dave Henson, Prince Harry walked with the officer who lost both his legs in a blast caused by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan's Helmand Province in 2011.

The prince matched the slow steps of the 28-year-old officer from Southampton, who will compete in the swimming, track and field and volleyball events, before taking the torch from him onto a stage.

Prince Harry lights the Warrior Games cauldron Prince Harry lights the cauldron to mark the opening of the Warrior Games

Speaking earlier at the same venue, the prince said that after meeting competitors last year he was determined to return and watch them compete.

He said: "I only hope in the future, the near future we can bring the Warrior Games to Britain and continue to enlarge this fantastic cause.

"I don't see how it wouldn't be possible to fill a stadium with 80,000 people, not to watch Olympics, not to watch Paralympics but to watch wounded servicemen fight it out amongst each other - not on a battlefield but in a stadium."

The royal got a laugh from his American audience when he joked: "I hope this is something you will all take a huge interest in as your nation will be coming probably second if not third to the UK team."

The Warrior Games are hosted every year by the US Olympic Committee.

'One of us'

The 35-strong UK squad is funded by military charity Help for Heroes. They will take part in archery, cycling, shooting, swimming, track and field, wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball.

Prince Harry fell flat on his back when he tried his hand at sitting volleyball with members of the UK team.

The third in line to the throne took his fall in good humour and high-fived Lance Corporal Maurillia Simpson, 39, as he played.

L/Cpl Simpson, who was blown up by two mortar attacks and suffered a road traffic accident while serving in Germany, said: "It was like having another friend, a co-colleague, co-partner, player. Yeah, he was just like one of us."

The prince also spoke to shooting events competitor Erica Vey, 31, who shattered her leg in 2007 when a Hercules aircraft she was in was forced to climb suddenly.

Former press secretary to the Queen, Dickie Arbiter, said the games were a perfect fit for the prince.

Prince Harry walking through Arlington cemetery Prince Harry visited Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia on the second day of his tour

He said: "America loves a hero and Harry is a hero in their eyes. He's got all the charisma that's required to do the job.

"He's good with servicemen, he is an active serviceman so there is an affinity between him and the people he's talking to.

"I don't think yet we've seen the full potential of Harry. I think that's still to come but my goodness, he's doing a pretty good job at the moment."

Martin Colclough, the charity's head of physical recovery, said: "We are delighted to once again fund a UK team in such a high profile US event and are looking forward to watching our athletes build on the tremendous successes from last year.

"Having supported athletes at both a grassroots and Paralympic level, we know how important physical activity is for encouraging confidence and independence after a life-changing injury or illness."

The prince, who has completed two tours of duty in Afghanistan as a co-pilot and gunner of Apache helicopters, began his seven-day tour by meeting Michelle Obama and joining her in honouring America's military mothers at a White House reception.

He has also visited an exhibition highlighting the work of a landmine charity supported by his mother, Princess Diana, and laid a wreath at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

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