They were the behind-the-scenes heroes of London’s stunning summer of sport — the thousands of eager volunteers who embodied the Olympic spirit and earned the gratitude of athletes and fans.
Now the starting pistol has been fired for Northern Ireland’s chance to display the same selfless enthusiasm, with the search for 3,500 volunteers to help out at the World Police and Fire Games in Northern Ireland next year.
Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin has cast the net wide for volunteers for the Games next August.
Already, 1,4000 have expressed an interest, but registration is due to close at the end of next month to ensure that training and vetting of volunteers can be completed on time.
The Sinn Fein Minister’s department has set up a company — World Police and Fire Games Limited (WPFG Ltd) — which in turn has contracted Volunteer Now to recruit, train and manage the thousands of volunteers required. Ms Ni Chuilin’s colleague, John O’Dowd, (below) said: “It is widely recognised that one of the big success stories of the Olympic and Paralympic Games was the spirit and enthusiasm of the volunteers.
“Now that the Olympic and Paralympic Games have passed, I think that there will be a focus on the World Police and Fire Games and the potential that exists for those games in Belfast. It is a major international sporting event. Volunteers will be critical to the success of the games.”
Mr O’Dowd — who stood in for Ms Ni Chuilin at Assembly questions — said volunteers in London had made the Olympics and Paralympics “the friendly games”.
“I have no doubt that the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) will be able to recruit 3,500 volunteers here to go out and do their part on the streets of Belfast and further afield to make the World Police and Fire Games the Friendly World Police and Fire Games,” he said.
Mr O'Dowd said the company is working under significant pressures to deliver “one of the biggest international sporting events ever held on the island of Ireland”.
He added: “One of the great scourges faced by our society is the extent to which respect for the emergency services — fire, rescue, police and ambulance — is not universal.”
Volunteers must be aged 16 or over by January 1, 2013, be able to volunteer a minimum of three days and pass background checks. Apply online via www.2013wpfg.com
Around 10,000 athletes are expected to take part in next year’s World Police and Fire Games in Northern Ireland.
An estimated 15,000 visitors are expected to accompany them, providing a significant boost to the local economy.
The event in Belfast runs from August 1-10 next year.