Belfast Telegraph

Visitors just can't keep away from Dame Mary Peters

By Steven Beacom

Dame Mary Peters must be the most hugged woman in Northern Ireland right now.

 

When they weren't competing on the opening day of the track and field at the World Police and Fire Games, athletes lined up to throw their arms around a statue of the 1972 Olympic champion before getting their pictures taken.

The Mary Peters Track yesterday was filled with voices from all parts of the planet be it Puerto Rico, Spain, Brazil or Scotland, with the odd Norn Iron accent thrown in for good measure.

Veteran of two World Police and Fire Games, sprinter John Titterington from the PSNI, spoke of his delight that the event had got off to such a promising start.

The 55 year-old said: “I was in Vancouver and New York so I thought I would give it a go in Belfast as well. It's brilliant to have a massive event like this here.

“There is terrific support for everyone. You walk through Belfast and it is great to see so many athletes and everyone being warm and friendly to them.”

The visitors agree.

Yesterday, a quartet of Romanian competitors, Maria Voda, Daniela Soare, Bogdan Popa and Gheorghi Romanscanu were lapping up the sunshine and warm welcome, enjoying the action on the track ahead of their own events today.

Firefighter Maria, a cult hero back in her home town due to her athletics prowess, is competing in the 100m, 200m, 400m and long jump. She said: “We are here for seven days and it has been great so far. We're looking forward to competing.”

Bogdan, the long jump champion two years ago, added: “I really like it in Northern Ireland. It is a beautiful country.

“I think everyone will have a wonderful time here. There is a good atmosphere.”

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