Organisers of the World Police and Fire Games (WFPG) are relying on a late surge of interest after it was revealed that the Belfast event has attracted just over half of the expected number of competitors.
With 125 days until the starting pistol is fired at the King’s Hall launch, only 5,822 people from USA, Canada, Australia, Spain, Germany and Russia have applied to take part. Now the race is on to attract 10,000 participants for the 10-day games, which start on August 1.
Games president Mike Graham, from California, said threats from terrorists and continuing flag protests have not deterred competitors from signing up.
“Everyone is convinced that they are coming and that the security forces will protect them and their families,” said Mr Graham during a visit to Belfast, where the games were officially launched at Belfast Central Fire Station yesterday.
The games chief said he was not aware of events deterring anyone in the US. So far, 3,406 athletes have registered for the WPFG with another 2,417 in the pipeline.
At a WFPG event in Belfast yesterday, Olympic gold medallist Dame Mary Peters said: “I was with some people from Chicago and I said to the gentleman, ‘Do you have any worries about coming here?’ He said, ‘No worries at all’. I said, ‘Did you hear about our news?’ and he said, ‘Last year we had 1,000 homicides in Chicago’.
“We have people from all over the world coming... let’s make it a really good games.”