COLORADO SPRINGS — Escorted by Britain’s Prince Harry and swimming superstar Missy Franklin, a U.S. Navy officer — blinded by an improvised bomb in Afghanistan — lighted an Olympic-style cauldron Saturday to launch the Warrior Games for wounded service members.
Lt. Bradley Snyder, Prince Harry, and Ms. Franklin completed the last leg of a brief torch relay at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs to formally start the games.
All three lifted the torch to the lip of the cauldron to ignite the flame.
It was a touching start to the Paralympic-style games, which continue through Thursday. About 260 athletes are competing in basketball, volleyball, shooting, archery, track and field, and swimming — Lieutenant Snyder’s sport.
Britain sent a 35-member team and the prince met with the athletes earlier in the day. He also sat on a gymnasium floor in a circle of 12 sitting volleyball players, batting the ball around amid whoops and laughter.
Prince Harry served as a combat helicopter pilot in Afghanistan. The British veterans said that makes him easy to talk to.
“He knows what it’s like out there,” said Army Capt. Dave Henson, a member of the volleyball team. “He’s been on the ground and in the air.”
Captain Henson, 28, lost both legs when an improvised bomb exploded in Afghanistan two years ago. He said the prince took a personal interest in the athletes’ recovery and the quality of their health care.
Royal Marine Matthew Hancox, 25, said the prince recognized some wounded veterans he had met before and asked them how they were recovering.
“He’s very down-to-earth,” said Mr. Hancox, who was shot in the chest in Afghanistan in 2011.
The prince on Saturday pulled a Union Jack jersey over his uniform and joined the British team in a raucous exhibition game of sitting volleyball against U.S. players. That delighted the audience of several hundred and prompted a string of teasing taunts from the arena announcer.
The visit to Colorado got under way on Friday night when Prince Harry charmed dozens of dignitaries, British expatriates, students, and military officers at a cocktail party welcoming him to Colorado.
He also joined the crowd in singing “Happy Birthday” to Ms. Franklin, a Coloradan who was celebrating turning 18 at a golf club near Denver. She won four gold medals in the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
A captain in Britain’s Army Air Corps, Prince Harry has deployed to Afghanistan twice. He wore a camouflage uniform and tan combat boots when he met with the British team.
His first deployment, as a forward air controller in 2007-2008, was cut short after 10 weeks when details of his whereabouts were disclosed in the media. On his second deployment, he was a co-pilot and gunner on an Apache helicopter.
He’s attending the Colorado games because he believes the wounded deserve recognition, according to a statement from St. James’ Palace in London, the official residence of the royal family.
“He seemed very interested in what stage we are all in in terms of our rehabilitation,” said Erica Vey, a veteran of the British Air Force.
Ms. Vey, who competes in track and field and shooting, suffered the amputation of a leg after being injured when a cargo plane had to take unexpected evasive action.
Prince Harry caused a scandal on his last trip to America when he was photographed frolicking nude with an unidentified woman in a Las Vegas hotel suite in August. “It was probably a classic example of me probably being too much army, and not enough prince,” he said afterward.