SYDNEY – Prince Harry climbed the Sydney Harbor Bridge on Friday to raise a flag that marks the arrival of the Invictus Games, his creation and the focus of his current royal tour of Australia and the South Pacific.
The sporting event, founded by Harry in 2014, begins on Saturday. It offers military personnel and sick and injured veterans the opportunity to compete in sports such as wheelchair basketball and find inspiration to recover.
The fact that the Duchess of Sussex has never planned to climb the highest steel-arch bridge in the world with her husband had fueled speculation that she is pregnant. Speculation was confirmed on Monday, when Harry and former Meghan Markle announced that their first child would be out in the northern spring.
Harry, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, four members of the Australian team and the widow of an Australian veteran climbed more than 1,000 steps on the back of a bow to raise the banner of Invictus Games Sydney 2018.
"The Sydney Harbor Bridge is an Australian icon and I can not think of a better place to raise the … flag," Morrison said in a statement.
During the descent, Harry hugged his climbing partner Gwen Cherne, a game ambassador whose husband Peter Cafe, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, committed suicide in February.
"We talk about mental health and we really work to change the way our global community considers mental health and treats it," Cherne said later.
The flag will fly 134 meters (440 feet) over Sydney Harbor until the games close on October 27.
Harry and his wife, the former American actress, will attend the opening and closing ceremonies of the games. Around 500 athletes from 18 nations will compete in venues around Sydney.
The couple from the previous Friday walked barefoot on Bondi Beach to meet a group of surfers focused on mental well-being.
The group, OneWave, meets weekly in an "anti-vibra circle" in the arena.
While the group was dressed in noisy and outrageous fluorescent suits, Harry and Meghan were calmer, but their message to the group was clear.
"They are super passionate about mental health, they are demonstrating that mental health does not discriminate," said OneWave co-founder Grant Trebilco.
Charlotte Connell, a member of OneWave, said that Harry spoke of his own experiences seeking counseling more than 20 years after his mother, Princess Diana, died in a car tunnel accident in Paris in 1997 when she was 12 years old.
"Harry said it did not take him six months, but 18 months to find the right person to talk to." He's not going to find the right person to talk to immediately, "Connell said.
Both Harry and Meghan used exercise as a way to stay well, Connell said.
"Even in his state of emergency, he got up in the morning and did yoga at 4.30 a.m.," Connell said.
"She said it's so good to heal her mind," Connell added.
After Bondi, the couple made an unexpected visit to Macarthur Girls High School in Parramatta, in downtown Sydney.
The students who shouted gave the couple a welcome rock star to a school assembly.
"When they entered, I felt that my heart stopped. Their presence simply surprised everyone, "said Rhiannon, a 15-year-old student.
The couple ended the day's events with formal meetings with Morrison and opposition leader Bill Shorten.
Harry and Meghan will also visit Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand during their 16-day tour.
McGuirk reported from Canberra, Australia.
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