Belfast Telegraph

Baggott says World Police and Fire Games will showcase Northern Ireland

The World Police and Fire Games in Belfast will provide an opportunity for emergency services from around the world to develop new working partnerships, Northern Ireland's Chief Constable has said.

Matt Baggott also claimed the sporting events over the coming 10 days were an opportunity to showcase all that was good about the region.

Northern Ireland's senior officer was addressing an audience of international police, fire and prison service members at a conference in Belfast ahead of the Games' opening ceremony in the city tomorrow night.

The two day "Partnerships in Safety" conference focusing on knowledge-sharing between organisations was arranged to try to make the most of so many senior emergency service chiefs being in one place at one time.

Mr Baggott told delegates at Titanic Belfast: "All of us will take a step back in the next day or so and think about the challenges of international austerity, monetary pressures, international communications, global movements - the challenges to do more with less are ever greater."

He said the lesson he had learned from four years as chief constable in Northern Ireland was that working in partnership was crucial.

"We can achieve absolutely nothing without relationships," he said.

"We can achieve absolutely nothing without partnerships that are more than talking, we need to learn to give and share, not just the expertise, but the confidence that comes with seeing achievements.

"I believe that partnerships here at the moment are delivering safety in way that's unprecedented.

"Partnership is the only way forward both politically, practically and in terms of the emergency services."

 Mr Baggott said he hoped the Games in Belfast would be the "friendliest" ever.

Stormont's First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness also delivered speeches at the outset of the first day of the conference.

Afterwards, Mr Robinson said: "You couldn't have contemplated having the World Police and Fire Games in Northern Ireland 15 or 20 years ago, it just wouldn't have happened.

"Yet here we are with tens of thousand of people going to enjoy the events and I think the people who come we often find will come back again.

"It's the same with our investors, the same with our tourists - if we can get people into Northern Ireland, we can get them back to Northern Ireland.

"It's a tremendous opportunity for us."

Mr McGuinness said the awarding of the Games to Belfast was a "tremendous vote of confidence" in the peace process, claiming it built on the hosting of the G8 summit in Co Fermanagh in June.

"People from an international perspective do look on this as a world success story in terms of conflict resolution," he said.

"And I think this is a tremendous vote of confidence in the progress that has been made coming in the wake of the G8, hugely successful event in Fermanagh.

"Now to have 7,000 people with entourages with them, competing in a whole wide range and series of events, I think it's just a good news story."

Stormont Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin today attended the King's Hall in Belfast for a preview of the Games' opening ceremony.

"After all the hard work and organisation it is great that we are at the start-line of the 2013 World Police and Fire Games," she said.

"The excitement at the King's Hall is really building as the final preparations are made for the opening ceremony.

"Tomorrow night this venue will be packed with spectators who have come to support the athletes. The ice hockey, cycling hill climb and handball are already under way and it is easy to see the pride and determination of all the participants.

"I am sure in the next 10 days we will witness great sporting moments and personal achievements. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has made this occasion possible; the staff of the venues, the officials of the organisation and the volunteers who will be working throughout the tournament.

"As well as sporting prowess the next 10 days will also represent an opportunity for us to showcase all that is great about Belfast; our friendly welcome, our visitor attractions and our cultural diversity.

"Along with the different sporting events across the city, and beyond, my Department has been able to support a full Cultural Programme to coincide with the Games. With so much to see and do I hope the athletes have time to fit their sporting events in."

Cheerleaders worked on their steps and drummers played samba-style music as they rehearsed inside a purpose-built stadium in Belfast for tomorrow night's opening ceremony.

John Tully, chief executive of the Games, said Belfast had won the bid because of its reputation for integrity and friendliness.

"This is a real opportunity for everyone in Northern Ireland to showcase all the positive things about our country," he said.

"We have had visits from athletes in preparation for the Games. When they saw all the things across Northern Ireland in terms of tourist destinations, the events that will be taking place, they were really excited and upbeat and went back and built a lot of interest within their own organisations and are now bringing lots of athletes and their friends and families to Belfast."

He added the quality of the sporting venues and sense of welcome from Belfast people had helped win the bid against stiff competition from the likes of past hosts Calgary.

"What they liked was the sense of integrity and honesty," he said.

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