Let's give the Games a sporting chance
This is turning out to be some year for Northern Ireland to sell itself on the international stage. First we had Londonderry's reign as the UK City of Culture, then the G8 conference and next week the biggest sporting event ever to take place here, the World Police and Fire Games.
The first two events have enhanced the province's reputation as a place of culture, hospitality and the ability to stage international class celebrations.
Of course the flag protests at the beginning of the year and the recent Twelfth riots did some damage, and have led some competitors at the Games to query if they should come.
However, some 7,000 competitors will take part in 56 different sports at 42 venues.
That is a mammoth undertaking and given the threat against local police officers a large security operation will also surround the Games. However, we are assured that will not detract from either the competition or the enjoyment of spectators.
There is one disappointing feature of the Games though. Given that this is the first time they have been hosted in the British Isles – a signal honour for the province – the build-up has been relatively low-key. Ask any member of the public where the events will be staged or what sports entrants will compete in and it is likely they will not know.
While it may be overstating the case somewhat to describe the games as Northern Ireland's Olympics, they are significant in both scale and international reach and deserve to get the widest possible support.
With only a week left until the opening ceremony, now is the time for a concerted publicity drive, to herald the arrival of competitors and supporters from around the world – the biggest contingent taking part are from the US and Canada – and to urge the public to get out and enjoy another feel-good occasion.
We have the chance yet again to make a good impression on a huge variety of visitors who can spread the world about the real new Northern Ireland.