World Police and Fire Games: stage is set, the performers are ready... let the games begin
It's showtime. After months of preparation, the World Police and Fire Games opening ceremony is finally upon us and anticipation has skyrocketed.
Around 7,000 competitors from more than 60 countries –plus spectators – will gather in a specially constructed 14,000-seat outdoor arena at the King's Hall in Belfast tonight.
Final rehearsals were under way yesterday and spirits were high, despite some traditional Northern Ireland rain.
Games chief executive John Tully said a spot of rain would not dampen spirits. He told the Belfast Telegraph: "People shouldn't be put off, this is going to be a fantastic event regardless of what the weather throws at us."
Ahead of what is set to be a high-tempo, energetic programme there will be a moment of reflection for fallen servicemen.
Mr Tully promises a fantastic line-up which will be a "real demonstration of all the cultures and traditions of Northern Ireland".
From singer Brian Kennedy to 75 Irish dancers from 16 different schools, the city will take its place in the limelight showcasing local talent. Among the performers are the UK Cheer association made up of cheerleaders from all over Northern Ireland.
National coach Karen Graham said: "We are really excited about it. It's good for our sport of cheerleading to be recognised in something as big as this.
"The girls are really ecstatic. It's a really big thing for us."
Part of the opening performance is street theatre group Waterford Spraoi who are made up of 18 to 35-year-olds.
Performer Martina Collender said: "Our act is going to be about 'endurance'. We have three floats made down in Waterford city along with our costumes.
"We have a giant whale, a boat and snow machines to make it all look very realistic. We are really excited, it's a huge honour."
The Opening Ceremony performance will be broadcast on the internet and will be viewed all around the world.
Dancer Garima Singhal from the South Asian dance group Artsekta added: "For a lot of us it's our biggest performance ever.
"It's very exciting and especially because it's being streamed live on the internet for the whole world to see."
The theme is Dare to Dream and through music, dance and drama it hopes to put Northern Ireland's colourful tapestry on a global platform.
Nikki Devlin, Belfast City Council event officer, said: "We have tried to tell a story. People have left Northern Ireland and gone across the world, but people are now coming back."