Belfast Telegraph

World Police and Fire Games opening ceremony takes place

Thousands of athletes from around the world have descended on Belfast

Uniforms from around the globe were woven together tonight as the World Police and Fire Games opened in Belfast.

Forces from Australia to the United Arab Emirates and China paraded during a glitzy and noisy celebration in Belfast.

The Melbourne Fire Service and Victoria State Police bore plastic kangaroos and threw a beach ball around while downing Guinness. The French carried "Superman" and the Irish danced into a 16,000-capacity arena.

The Northern Irish proudly paraded to the tunes of Van Morrison while the strains of Bruce Springsteen accompanied the Americans and the Brazilians blew canary yellow samba horns.

Police Service of Northern Ireland Deputy Chief Constable Judith Gillespie said: "Our uniforms are a different colour but they are woven from the same cloth and the threads of service, commitment, professionalism, integrity, courage and compassion bind us all together, so whatever your service and country you are here in support of friendship and I am so proud that you have chosen to share it with us."

Around 7,000 competitors from 67 countries are taking part.

The opening ceremony show featured symbols of polar exploration, the Endurance boat mired on ice was pulled along by bedraggled waifs, as well as man's early flight. Northern Irish people contributed during the pioneering days of exploration and aviation.

Security has been tight but organisers expect a peaceful games on the back of a successful G8 summit earlier this summer.

Marcus May, a corporal in the Hammond police department in Indiana, was born in Ireland and will be taking part in the shotgun competition for his first games.

"It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to come and I am looking forward to it," he said.

"I am proud to represent the US but I am humbled by the fact that it is here in Ireland and I can represent Ireland also."

He said he hoped to win a medal.

"I am going to keep my focus and above all have fun," he added.

Levy Aharon, a policeman in Jerusalem, is competing in indoor rowing and cross-country running.

He won a bronze medal in the games in 2003 in Barcelona.

"It is very green here, relative to Israel, and quite nice," he said.

First Minister Peter Robinson said: "These games will allow us to focus on those who are the finest and the bravest. I salute you all."

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said the event would have been unimaginable 15 years ago and sent a signal to other countries trying to end conflict.

"This is a country very much at peace; this is a country looking to the future."

He added "The world is united for the 2013 World Police and Fire Games."

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