Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with the founder of the Invictus Games hours before the competition for wounded veterans was set to get underway.
Prince Harry and the prime minister exchanged laughs and pleasantries at a downtown Toronto hotel shortly before both were expected to attend the opening ceremony of the Games.
Harry told Trudeau that the event had created “a real buzz around Toronto,” which will play host to the Games for the next week.
Trudeau, in turn, thanked Harry for founding the Games and creating opportunities for veterans.
Harry will meet with Gov. Gen. David Johnston before attending the star-studded opening ceremony at the Air Canada Centre, which will feature performers such as Sarah McLachlan and Alessia Cara.
A few well-wishers gathered outside the room where Harry and Trudeau were meeting, though the crowd paled in comparison to the one assembled to greet the prince earlier in the day when he toured one of Canada’s premier mental health facilities.
The crowd of a few hundred strong that whooped when they glimpsed him as he entered the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and clambered for his attention when he emerged more than hour later.
The prince did not disappoint, crossing the road after his tour to talk to children, meet a pup and shake hands with the crowd as they waited in unseasonably warm, sunny weather.
“Oh my goodness, I’m so happy, he shook my hand,” said a dazzled Robinowe Bukirwa, who wondered if she was dreaming even as the prince faded into the distance.
“I don’t think I’m going to wash my hand today. I’m so very excited.”
The prince’s tour of the centre included two roundtables — one with nine senior staff members focused on research, the other on dealing with youth coping with mental illness.
Describing the complex issue as one requiring a “massive team effort,” Harry listened attentively to staff discuss their work, and anecdotes from patients who sought treatment for mental health and addiction struggles at the facility in downtown Toronto.
The prince stressed the importance of mental health research and treatment — a topic he has championed. There is no “silver bullet” when it comes to dealing with the problem, he said.
“You need options,” he said.
One person in attendance told Harry she still cherished a visit decades before from his mother, the late Diana, the Princess of Wales. The prince also met privately with teenaged inpatients of the mental health facility.
The 2017 Invictus Games will feature 550 competitors from 17 countries participating in 12 sports.
The inaugural Invictus Games, aimed at helping the war wounded with their recovery, were held in London in 2014. The Toronto Games run until Sept. 30.