Normally it is only the athletes who perform in front of a television audience in the hundred of millions, for events such as the Super Bowl,…
Normally it is only the athletes who perform in front of a television audience in the hundred of millions, for events such as the Super Bowl, World Cup or Olympic 100-meter final.
Prince Harry and his bride-to-be Meghan Markle will get that kind of exposure this weekend, when the sixth person in line to the English throne ends his long and enjoyable bachelorhood by settling down, in a ceremony that will be broadcast around the world.
The royals have a peculiar and unique kind of celebrity that has something in common with pop stars but is more often likened to the existence of an elite professional athlete. Certainly, Harry would prefer the latter classification, given the entwined links he has had with the world of sports since his teenage years.
He played anything and everything during his school years and afterwards, from rugby and soccer, to polo – both on horseback and on bicycles. Indeed, it was at a polo match last May where he was first spotted kissing American actress Markle, a photo that sent the London tabloids into a salivating frenzy that still has not abated, and may never.
Back in 2003, when Harry was a rambunctious teenager who enjoyed drinking just a little bit too much, he screamed from the stands as England outlasted Australia in the Rugby World Cup final, celebrating victory by dancing with and hugging the wife of the England coach.
He likes being at the heart of the action, too, and was seen at countless events during the London Olympics in 2012, soccer games and other international occasions. He has also been tabbed for a senior leadership position with the Commonwealth Games, a multi-sport festival for nations that either are or were previously under British rule.
His enjoyment of competition stretches even to darts, known in the United States as a pub pastime but serious business in the United Kingdom, where television ratings and prize money are high. Harry attended the World Championship at Alexandra Palace in North London in 2014 and even followed darts fan protocol by holding up a self-made sign. His version encouraged the rest of the audience to “Sing Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” a popular rugby song. When his request was broadcast on the big screen, they duly did.
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He likes the company of athletes too. He helped to match-make his cousin Zara Phillips with his friend, England rugby star Mike Tindall. The pair married, and Phillips became a European champion at equestrian. Harry was on hand to cheer her loudly when she competed in London in 2012.
That year, Harry also hung out with Ryan Lochte at a wild party in Las Vegas, when maturity was still a work in progress. He enjoys challenging athletes to races and unsurprisingly lost to Lochte in a 3 a.m. swimming contest at the Wynn hotel on that trip, before consoling himself by joining some new female friends in a game of strip billiards.
He raced Usain Bolt on a trip to Jamaica, an occasion which Bolt described as one of his more memorable races. The Jamaican star put it on a par with the time he got drunk and was beaten by actor Mickey Rourke in a street race outside a London nightclub.
However, Harry’s greatest influence on sports has been his work with disabled athletes. He personally created the Invictus Games, essentially an Olympics for adaptive sports created for wounded members of the military, with the compassion he displayed causing many to draw parallels with his late mother, Princess Diana.
His enthusiasm for the project impressed senior members of the Royal Family and the British public, and while once he was the lovable rogue of the clan, his image now is that of a fine ambassador for the country.
He has lived his life in the spotlight, such is the life of a royal. This weekend, the eyes of the world will be upon him, and his new bride.
Follow Rogers on Twitter @RogersJourno