The Duke of Sussex has urged all the veterans preparing to compete in the Invictus Games this year to “maintain focus” after the decision was made to postpone the event to 2021 due to coronavirus.
In a video posted on the event’s Twitter account, Harry thanked all the organisers who had tried to think up an alternative solution but said postponement was “the safest option”.
The 2020 Invictus Games were due to be held in The Hague in May.
The competition brings together current and former wounded, injured or sick servicemen and women from more than 20 countries.
Harry said: “This was an incredibly hard decision for us to make and I am so grateful for everyone who’s worked so hard over the past few weeks to try and find any alternative to try and carry out these games in a different way in a safe way.
“But this decision was the most sensible and the safest option for all of you and their families and everybody else involved in these games.”
He continued: “I know how disappointed you must all be, this is a focus that so many of you need.
“I would encourage you to maintain that focus as best you can.
“The good thing is you have an extra 12 or so months to be even fitter – even fitter than you already are, to be at your absolute top mental and physical fitness.
“So in that sense I am really excited about the games next year, I am sorry that we couldn’t provide this for you.”
Harry called upon participants to look after fellow servicemen who may be most vulnerable during periods of social isolation, saying “you know who to look out for”.
“Please look after yourselves, look after your families, please look out for one another – you guys are all on these chat groups, you know who to look out for,” he said.
He added: “So do look out for yourselves but do what you do best which is reaching out to other people – be it those people who still wear the uniform, those that still wear the uniform, or be it those in your community who you know may be suffering or may be vulnerable during this period.”
Harry promised competitors that they would have a new date for the games as soon as possible, promising them “you will be the first to know”.
Harry, who is quitting as a senior royal at the end of the month, was set to travel to the Netherlands with the Duchess of Sussex to attend the event.
In a statement, the Invictus Games Foundation said: “The decision was also taken in recognition of the anticipated strain on medical staff and the infrastructure required in dealing with the pandemic.
“We did not wish to add to the complexity of the response, or increase the risk to those involved, by bringing together an international and potentially vulnerable audience.”
It added: “We are now investigating all options to reschedule the Invictus Games, subject to the availability of key facilities and resources, to May or June 2021. Significant planning to scope and confirm this option is under way.”