Prince Harry's duty: Beach volleyball in Rio
LONDON (AP) — Prince Harry will combine sports, military exercises and meetings with school children and locals on his first-ever trip as an official representative of Queen Elizabeth II, palace officials said Wednesday.
His destinations sound pleasant, at least to Brits freezing in the February cold. The red-haired prince will travel to Bahamas, Belize, Jamaica and Brazil, where he will find the time for a few games of beach volleyball in Rio de Janeiro. He also plans a visit to Usain Bolt Stadium in Jamaica, where he hopes to meet the Olympic great.
Most of the trip is connected to the queen's diamond jubilee celebrations in British realms throughout the world.
While Harry prepares for this jaunt, his older brother Prince William is about to start a six-week military deployment to the Falklands Islands, where he will serve as a search and rescue helicopter pilot.
Officials have not confirmed William's departure date because of operational security concerns amid indications that his departure is imminent. Tensions over the disputed islands — claimed by both Britain and Argentina — have risen in recent weeks. Argentina refers to the islands as Las Malvinas.
Palace officials Wednesday confirmed that William and his wife, the Duchess of Cambridge, recently acquired a black male cocker spaniel who is expected to keep the former Kate Middleton company while William is on military duty. The puppy is several months old and was part of a litter known to the royal couple through a family connection.
The queen, in a rare concession to her advancing years, has asked her children and grandchildren to attend jubilee festivities overseas, and she asked Harry to travel to the Caribbean on her behalf. She and her husband, Prince Philip — who is 90 and has heart problems — will limit their jubilee travels to the United Kingdom.
Harry also plans to travel to Brazil at the tail end of the trip at the request of the British government on a trip to promote ties and emphasize the transition from the upcoming 2012 London Games to the summer Olympics to be held in Rio in four years time.
Hence the beach volleyball in Rio. Officials won't say which beach has been chosen, but it won't be Copacabana or Ipanema, the city's two most famous. The matches also may disappoint photographers longing for the chance to catch the prince playing sports with female volleyball stars. Officials say it is likely to be a men's only game.
Harry will also take part in a polo match while in Brazil.
Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, Harry's private secretary, said Harry is excited about the trip.
"Prince Harry is really bouncing about this tour, that's the first thing to say. He's hugely, hugely looking forward to it," said Lowther-Pinkerton. "The tour's itinerary reflects, with its mixture of formality and informality, Prince Harry's wish to pay personal tribute to his grandmother the Queen but also to spend time wherever possible with young people in all three countries."
The prince is expected to arrive in Belize on March 2.
The diamond jubilee festivities in Belize will include a raucous street party, Lowther-Pinkerton said, and Harry will also have a chance to tour a Mayan temple and meet with school children and military forces.
In the Bahamas, officials say Harry will give a speech chronicling the royal family's links to the islands and take part in a maritime security operation.
He plans a number of events in Jamaica, including a stop at Usain Bolt Stadium.
Officials say they hope Bolt is able to meet with the prince, despite the sprinter's intense training schedule, and may be willing to offer Harry a few pointers about how to get a quick start in a race.