Toespraak van minister-president Mark Rutte bij de opening van de Invictus Games, Den Haag

De toespraak is uitgesproken in het Engels.

Your Royal Highness Princess Margriet,

Duke of Sussex, founder and patron of the Invictus Games Foundation,

Duchess of Sussex,

Your Excellencies,

Distinguished guests,

Athletes, family members and friends,

Welcome to the Netherlands. And welcome to my home town, The Hague. I hope you enjoyed that quick video tour of the city. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve had to wait a while. But how wonderful that the Invictus Games can finally get under way. You are ready. The Hague is ready. We’re all ready to enjoy a fantastic week of sport.

And we are all impatient to get started. In recent weeks we’ve seen billboards all over The Hague with photos of the Invictus athletes. In our city centre, along the seafront, outside the Peace Palace and City Hall, around our schools and in our neighbourhoods.

They’re hard to miss. And you wouldn’t want to miss them. Because each portrait contains a unique story. A story of resilience. Of fortitude in the face of adversity. Of vulnerability and strength.

These are your stories. Your lifelines.

And the events unfolding now in Ukraine make them resonate even more. I’d like to extend a special welcome to the Ukrainian team. No doubt you are here with both mixed feelings and grave concerns about what’s happening at home. Some members of your team can’t be here, because they are fighting on the frontlines. Like you, we are thinking of them. And we are thinking of those Ukrainians in the Invictus community who have paid the ultimate price while fighting in the war. They deserve our highest respect. Please know that we’re all behind you. That we support Ukraine.

Together, let us show that unity and solidarity will always win out over confrontation and conflict. Sport brings people together. That’s what the Invictus Games stand for. You, the athletes, are a shining example. Your stories provide hope and inspiration. You show us that, whatever challenges we face, our souls remain unconquered. Invictus!

And that means a great deal. Thierry from Belgium is one of the athletes featured on the billboards in The Hague. He had the word Invictus tattooed on his arm after he was injured in a terrible accident when training for the Special Forces. He says: ‘To me, Invictus is more than just the Games. It really represents who I am, because I am invincible.’

That’s only one example. But it speaks volumes. About all the athletes. About these incredible Games. And about what they mean.

I wish you great sporting success. But above all, I hope you have a wonderful time! Thank you.