Belfast 'not ready' to host World Police and Fire event
Belfast is in danger of losing out when the World Police and Fire Games come to Northern Ireland in two years' time, a long-standing city councillor has warned.
Jim Rodgers has accused the council of "pussyfooting around" and claimed a failure to start upgrading work at the Mary Peters track could see the athletics competitions being staged in North Down or Antrim - not Belfast.
The concerns were raised as the official Games flags were presented to PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott and Chief Fire Officer Peter Craig in New York yesterday.
"I am becoming increasingly concerned that no work has started on this facility for the World Police and Fire Games in 2013," Mr Rodgers told a meeting of Belfast City Council.
"Anybody who knows anything about sport knows that you cannot level a track during wet or frosty weather.
"We have talked about this for five years, but we are not really getting things done."
Work to improve the Mary Peters Track is scheduled to take place in spring 2012.
It needs an indoor training facility, as well as being reconfigured to provide for eight lanes as opposed to the existing six, with improved storage, medical and spectator facilities.
Mr Rodgers added: "I fear that the field athletics are not going to be held in this city, that they are going to go to North Down, who have been boasting about their track at Ballyrobert. Let's get the finger out. Let's get things done."
However council and games officials have insisted that the Mary Peter's track will be ready on time.
Around 17,000 athletes from dozens of different countries are expected to descend on Belfast for the 10-day event in August 2013. The economic benefit is estimated to be in the region of £15.5m, with substantial media coverage.
Games Patron Dame Mary Peters said she was confident that preparations were already "well under way".