World Police and Fire Games: The friendliest games ever
Police and fire federation chief hails Belfast triumph
Published 12/08/2013 | 01:30
Six years of planning, 10 days of competition and one remarkable legacy that could enhance the image of Belfast around the world for years to come.
A dramatic Red Arrows flypast provided a spectacular and fitting end to the 2013 World Police and Fire Games in Belfast.
The event, involving 6,700 athletes from 67 countries, came to a successful close, with WPFG Federation President Mike Graham hailing it the "friendliest games ever".
John Tully, chief executive of the 2013 WPFG, said the legacy of the games "will live on for years to come" through a newly-enhanced culture of volunteering and a greater interest in sport by young people.
"The games have been an overwhelming success," Mr Tully said. "When we began this journey it was our goal to deliver the friendliest games ever.
"I'm very proud to say that the reality of what has been achieved has far exceeded our expectations."
The contribution of the 3,500 dedicated volunteers – who helped make hundreds of events at more than 40 venues run smoothly – was also recognised at the closing ceremony at Belfast's Titanic Slipways on Saturday.
Entertainment included performances from the Open Arts Choir, the PSNI Pipe Band and the Northern Virginia Firefighters Emerald Society Pipe Band, representing Fairfax, the US host city in 2015.
A parade of flags from participating countries, the handing over of the WPFG Flag and the final journey of the Flame of Hope carried by Special Olympians ended what has provided much more than the spectacle of sport.
Friendships have been forged, the economy has been boosted by several million and probably most importantly, police, fire, prison and customs staff from across the globe are returning to their home countries with tales of Belfast's famous welcome and sights to behold.
Dame Mary Peters, patron of WPFG 2013, said it was her honour to be part of the team which brought the games to Northern Ireland. "I could never have imagined back in 2007 when we won the bid in Adelaide just how successful these games would be," she said.
"My greatest hope is that the wonderful athletes from all over the world who we have watched and cheered on will prove inspirational to our young people and encourage them to get involved in sport."
Lord Mayor of Belfast Mairtin O Muilleoir said the games had been a "win-win" for everyone.
"A great time was had by all – visitors and locals," he said. "Everyone enjoyed one big party."
Isolated street violence in the city centre on Friday night marred what has otherwise been a very positive few weeks for the city.
Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin (below) said: "It is appropriate to look back on an event, the like of which we have never seen before. That we could host the World Police and Fire Games might have been unimaginable a few years ago. Yet we have confidently welcomed thousands of competitors to join in a sporting spectacular. The games have further opened the eyes of the world to the north, they have come and experienced the best of what we have to offer."