Prince Harry learned more in America than how to fly an Apache helicopter, and how to unwind in his off hours.
The prince, 29, was bowled over by the Warrior Games during his visit to the U.S. last May. And he realized a dream Thursday when it was announced that a similar Paralympic-style games – which Harry inspired – will be held in London later this year.
The Warrior Games serve as an introduction to Paralympic sports for injured U.S. service members and veterans. Harry’s Invictus Games, to be held Sept. 10-14, will be an international affair, with some 300 athletes competing from 13 countries, including the U.S., Canada and the U.K.
“It was such a great concept by America that it had to be stolen. But I wanted to bring it to a broader international audience,” Harry, 29, said Thursday at one of the London 2012 Olympics venues, many of which will be used for the Invictus Games.
Watching the Warrior Games “ignited something inside me,” Harry said, as he saw “firsthand the power of sport in inspiring recovery and demonstrating life beyond disability.”
He hopes the Invictus Games will “capture the public’s attention following on from the hugely successful Paralympics [taking place in Sochi, Russia, this month]. I’m extremely proud that we are bringing an event like this to the U.K. for the first time, and I believe it can have a long-lasting impact on the well-being of those who have served their nation so bravely.”
Sir Keith Mills, chair of the organizing committee, praised Harry for “leading our charge. It was his vision, ambition and determination that resulted in today’s announcement.”
Harry, 29, admitted he had felt “hot under the collar” during the last few weeks as the date for the launch neared. His switch from his role as an attack helicopter pilot in the Army Air Corps to a desk job helping to organize grand military events gave him the opportunity to throw himself into the campaign.
Aides to the prince tell PEOPLE that he and some of his staff have had a key role in the organization of the games. Harry has been attending committee meetings and sub-committee meetings as the wheels were set in motion.