Belfast Telegraph

Countdown has started to World Police and Fire Games

By Gerard Walton

The countdown to the 2013 World Police and Fire Games (WPFG) has begun in Belfast — the host city.

Representatives from the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS), the PSNI and the Prison Service got together in the wind and rain to officially start the clock for an event that begins next year on August 1.

With the 2012 Olympic Games grabbing the headlines, there was an understandably low-key air to proceedings, but anticipation will only build for an event that spans 66 sports and 41 venues.

Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin spoke of the potential impact the WPFGs could have — rivalling that of last year’s MTV awards.

“Setting aside the games and all the different countries I think it's going to be huge for tourism in the North, and indeed even across the island,” she said.

There are expected to be at least 15,000 visitors, in addition to 10,000 competitors — a number almost three times the size of the Commonwealth Games.

Competitors are made up of serving and retired fire, police and prison officers from around the world.

Belfast is only the third European host since the inaugural 1985 San Jose event and the Sports Minister is confident of a successful “family-friendly” event, which will include around 3,500 volunteers.

“Given the success of the Irish Open, you can genuinely see that we are capable of putting on big events,” she said.

“Once the Olympics and Paralympics finish I think people will get behind the WPFGs as something that we really appreciate, value, and welcome.”

The Chief Executive of the WPFGs, John Tully described the Games as a “fantastic opportunity to showcase NI” and revealed that he would be working closely with Belfast City Council on an eye-catching opening ceremony.

Sports to be competed include the occasional interesting twist — with Ultimate Firefighting and Toughest Competitor Alive expected to be entertaining crowd-pleasers.

Focus for now will remain on the spectacular show in London, but Belfast is waiting its turn — proceedings get under way in 364 days.

Belfast Telegraph

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