WPFG: OPENING CEREMONY

First Minister Peter Robinson & deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness show their support for the NI competitors

First Minister Peter Robinson & deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness show their support for the NI competitors: Photo © Michael Fisher

Some medals have already been awarded and some of the competitors from the novice section of the ice hockey have already gone home. But this was the day set aside for the official opening ceremony of the 2013 World Police and Fire Games. It was a fantastic occasion at the King’s Hall complex in Belfast, with over 10,000 people (mainly competitors and their friends and family) crowding into a specially constructed arena dominated by a large stage.

Here come the Mounties (RCMP) !!

Here come the Mounties (RCMP) !! Photo © Michael Fisher

The evening ended with the lighting of the games torch, the raising of the WPFG flag and a performance by Brian Kennedy and other stars.

WPFG opening ceremony: Photo  © Michael Fisher

WPFG opening ceremony: Photo © Michael Fisher

Today I saw the way the Waterfront Hall had been turned into a welcome centre for all the athletes and their supporters. Met some of the volunteers there who were very helpful. When I returned to my car at St George’s Market found two competitors, both from the USA, wondering how to get out to the Mary Peters track to take a look around (one of them will be competing there, the other is taking part in the golf competition).

PSNI Chief Constable (and Crystal Palace fan) Matt Baggott

PSNI Chief Constable (and Crystal Palace fan) Matt Baggott Photo © Michael Fisher

I was wearing my official identification so I immediately offered to bring them to the track and gave them a guided tour of South Belfast (University Road and Malone Road, including the turnoff for Newforge) along the way. When we arrived, both were impressed with the track and I pointed out the new stand, which I was seeing for the first time. Looks well, as do the QUB facilities at The Dub beside the House of Sport.

Team Ireland

Members of Team Ireland Photo © Michael Fisher

Note: for those who think I have mixed up this photo with the Ivory Coast (who are not represented at the games) take a look at where the hook is on the green section for attaching the tricolour to a flagpole. I insisted on carrying the national flag this way once in Belgium, to the consternation of some of my colleagues! The rest of the Garda/fire/prison service team preferred to carry the Irish flag in what might seem the ‘normal’ way, i.e. green, white and orange. Anyone who wishes to clarify the correct protocol should let me know.

Among the visitors to the ceremony was the President of the Ulster Council of the GAA, Martin McAviney from Ballybay. He will be heading for Croke Park on Saturday to join his fellow county-man Paraic Duffy (Castleblayney and Scotstown),  Ard Stiúrthoir Cumann Lúthchleas Gael. No doubt both of  them will find it difficult to remain entirely neutral when the Farney army meet Tyrone in the All-Ireland quarter-final! Gaelic football is one of the sports at WPFG 2013.

Plenty of colour at the opening ceremony WPFG 2013

Plenty of colour at the opening ceremony WPFG 2013 Photo © Michael Fisher

Northern Ireland Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuilín watches the pageant

Northern Ireland Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuilín watches the pageant: Photo © Michael Fisher

WPFG 2013: ICE HOCKEY

WPFG Volunteer Michael Fisher with Kim Harper, Las Vegas Guns & Hoses Picture: © Kelvin Boyes, Press Eye

WPFG Volunteer Michael Fisher with Kim Harper, Las Vegas Guns & Hoses Picture: © Kelvin Boyes, Press Eye

The 2013 World Police and Fire Games have started in Belfast with the preliminary rounds in the ice hockey tournament, which are being played at the Odyssey Arena. Day One of my week as a WPFG volunteer was taken up with meeting other members of the team including the event controllers and the other volunteers. The Odyssey staff were also very helpful and I am now more familiar with the layout of the complex.

The first sign: Registration

The first sign: Registration

There were three games at the venue today, starting at 3pm. Reykjavik Ice Falcons from Iceland took on the UK Firefighters/HMP Tornados and ran out 6-2 winners. The second game saw North America Blue defeat Las Vegas Guns and Hoses (among them sharpshooter Kimberly Harper, pictured above) by 5-3. Kim is a patrol deputy with Bonner County Sheriff’s Office in Las Vegas.

The crowd which had been around 500 for the first two games almost doubled when the local team NI Tridents took to the ice against Toronto Courts. The Canadians were a much stronger outfit and there was a great cheer from the crowd when the Tridents scored their first goal in the second period, when they were trailing well behind. Toronto won 11-3 but it was a gutsy performance by our local representatives who will be back in action on Saturday at 11am against SW Finland Emergency Services. Anyone who wants to watch can come along. Entrance is FREE. So get behind the Tridents!

Dame Mary Peters arrives at the Odyssey

Dame Mary Peters arrives at the Odyssey

One of the jobs I found myself doing was to meet the games patron Dame Mary Peters as she arrived to see the NI Tridents in action. ‘Thank you for volunteering’ was her message to myself and a colleague at the entrance. Other important guests included the First Minister Peter Robinson and the Northern Ireland Minister for Culture Carál Ní Chuilín.

Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuilín and First Minister Peter Robinson interviewed by BBC News

Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuilín and First Minister Peter Robinson interviewed by BBC News

Mr Robinson said he was proud to have such an event in Northern Ireland. In an interview with BBC News he said: “It has been a long time in the planning indeed for the lads who are out on the ice at the moment, three years they’ve been working up to this, so this is the pinnacle for them, at a top class event, to be able to participate and it’s the start of a whole long period of top class events.” Ms Ní Chuilín said there would be something at the games for everyone. “It’s mostly free and that’s what it’s about,” she told reporter Chris Buckler. I will be back at the Odyssey complex tomorrow afternoon.

Odyssey Arena, Belfast

Odyssey Arena, Belfast