Police and fire games a breath of fresh air
The World Police and Fire Games have been a breath of fresh air in Northern Ireland, when other less attractive activities on our streets have been taking place.
Everyone knew that the games would be something special, but they have surpassed the expectations of the hosts, the organisers and of those taking part.
Nearly 15,000 competitors and supporters from around 70 countries participated in 56 sports at over 40 venues in various parts of Northern Ireland, and this spread of activities has been a remarkable achievement in itself. Some of the sports have been very familiar, while others most certainly have not, including the categories of Ultimate Firefighter, Toughest Competitor Alive and Stair Climb. Despite the rare hiccup or two, there has been a marvellous atmosphere throughout, including much goodwill and not a little romance, with a number of marriage proposals and engagements showing that despite the competition there was still love in the air.
The World Police and Fire Games, which were first staged in 1985, constitute the third largest international multi-event sport in the world, and this was the first time that the games were hosted in the British Isles, and only the third time in Europe.
That alone underlines the major achievement of the local organisers in attracting the games here after a most competitive bid process in 2007, and now that they have been staged so successfully, all the efforts have proved worthwhile. The local traders have welcomed an enormous boost in business, with sales up by 20% in a total intake of almost £5m, and the competitors have brought a welcome new dimension to tourism in Northern Ireland. They have also witnessed the two sides to the province – the warmth of the welcome, but also the illogical and unfathomable behaviour of some of its people in their street confrontations and other odd behaviour.
Overall, however, the games have been an outstanding success. They have won more friends for Northern Ireland and given us a boost. So we thank them all for coming, and we wish them 'bon voyage' on their departure.