Prince Harry officially kicked off the countdown to the 2017 Invictus Games during a ceremony in downtown Toronto Monday.
Speaking in front of a crowd of servicemen and servicewomen, Harry said the games, which will be held in Toronto in September 2017, will be “the biggest, best games yet.”
“2017 will be your chance, your opportunity to salute those that serve your country. To salute those that put themselves in harm’s way so you don’t have to,” he said. “As Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary and remembers the events and sacrifices of Vimy Ridge, you will have the chance to cheer on the custodians of that proud history.”
Harry was joined at the launch by several dignitaries including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. Later Monday, the prince and Trudeau will watch a sledge hockey exhibition game at Ryerson University’s Mattamy Athletic Centre.
WATCH: Trudeau speaks during launch of the 2017 Invictus Games
Jody Mitic who served in the Canadians Forces as a sniper gave an emotional speech where he spoke of losing his feet to a land mine in Afghanistan.
“That small little explosion took more than flesh and bone,” said Mitic, who is now an Ottawa city councillor. “It also took my identity as a soldier.”
“We have a chance to help each other heal.”
What exactly are the Invictus Games?
The games were started as a sporting competition for wounded, injured and sick troops and aims to use sport to inspire recovery and draw awareness to the physical and psychological injuries suffered by service members.
WATCH: Prince Harry calls Invictus Games a ‘powerful’ concept
Prince Harry said his service during the Afghanistan war in 2008 and being forced to leave his military unit after his presence was leaked to the media inspired him to create the games.
“While we sat waiting to board the coffin of a Danish soldier was loaded on to the plane,” he said. “Meanwhile many of those who I sat with were eagerly awaiting their journey home to their loved ones. For me this represented the stark reality and contrast of war.”
He founded the games after visiting the 2013 Warrior Games, a U.S. sporting competition for ill and injured American service members and veterans.
The first Games were held in London in 2014 and involved more than 400 competitors from 13 countries.
WATCH: Invictus Games CEO Michael Barns on what the Games will mean for Canadians
This year’s Warrior Games will be held in Orlando, Fla., and will feature 500 competitors from 15 nations: Afghanistan, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, France, Georgia, Germany, Iraq, Italy, Jordan, Netherlands, New Zealand, United Kingdom and the US.
The word Invictus is Latin for “unconquered.”
The games features sports like archery, indoor rowing, powerlifting, road cycling, sitting volleyball, swimming, track and field, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby.
The Toronto 2017 games will add two new sports: golf and sledge hockey, and will feature 600 competitors from 16 nations, according to Invictus Games CEO Michael Barns.
*With files from the Canadian Press