Gold Medallists: Toronto Courts

Gold Medallists Toronto Courts: Photo © Michael Fisher

Celebrations on the ice at the Odyssey tonight as the Toronto Courts ice hockey team received the first gold medals of the 20th World Police and Fire Games 2013 in Northern Ireland. With over 15,000 spectators passing through the Odyssey Arena in Belfast over the past six days, perhaps the organisers should have  started the games officially with the ice hockey tournaments. In fact the games will not be opened until Thursday when a special ceremony will be held at the King’s Hall, close to where I live in South Belfast. The games then run from Friday 2nd August until Saturday 10th.

Gold Medallist: Toronto Courts

Gold Medallist Toronto Courts: Photo © Michael Fisher

BBC Northern Ireland will bring full live coverage of the opening ceremony. Live pictures will be beamed across the world through online streaming from the King’s Hall complex: Log on to bbc.co.uk/ni. Coverage will begin from 6.30pm. BBC NI cameras will also be recording at the opening event for a special one-hour highlights programme. The programme is on BBC2 Northern Ireland on Saturday August 3rd at 7.30pm and repeated on Tuesday, August 6th on BBC2 at 7.00pm.

Presented by Gavin Andrews and Claire McCollum it will look back at the colour and spectacle of the opening ceremony as well as meeting up with some of those who have travelled from far and wide to take part in some of the events over the ten days. BBC Newsline will also report live from the opening ceremony. There will be further coverage of the games on BBC Radio Ulster including a number of outside broadcasts from across some of the different events.

Talkback will resonate to the sound of leather on willow as the World Police and Fire Games get under way. Wendy Austin will be live at the Stormont estate on Thursday, August 1 from 12-1-30pm, where the cricket competition will be in full swing. Later that day, Alan Simpson will bring his afternoon programme from the King’s Hall complex between 3 and 5pm looking towards the opening ceremony of the games in the evening.

Anne-Marie McAleese and the Your Place and Mine team will head to Donard Park in Newcastle on Saturday, August 3 from 8.05 to 9.05am – the location for the WPFG mountain running event, while Hugo Duncan will be at the Titanic Slipway on Wednesday, August 7 from 1.30-3pm, where the WPFG Ultimate Fire Fighter competition will take place.

Tonight the PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Judith Gillespie and Dame Mary Peters arrived at the Odyssey to present medals to the winning teams in the Novice division of the ice hockey. Toronto Courts won gold, defeating North America Blue (silver medallists) 6-4 in a thrilling game. South West Finland Emergency Services received bronze medals.

Dame Mary Peters and Judith Gillespie at the medals ceremony

Dame Mary Peters & PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Judith Gillespie  Photo © Michael Fisher

My day as the match announcer started with a high-scoring contest in which the Russian Home Affairs Ministry heavily defeated Trondheim Fire Department from Norway 11-0. This was in the 45+ division, as was the second game between Service Incendie de Montréal (Montreal Fire Service) and Finland Police. The team from Québec won 7-2.

Service Incendie de Montréal

Service Incendie de Montréal: Photo © Michael Fisher

Then came the final games in the Novice section. The dancing ladies from Finland got behind their team, South West Finland Emergency Services and they ran out easy winners over UK Firefighters/HMP Tornados. The Finns even lent their standby net minder to the Tornados, who had one of the smallest squads in the group and lost their net minder through injury. The ladies were in such great form afterwards that I called them down and gave them the microphone and got them to perform their song for the rest of the spectators. They also had a party piece that sounded very like “Glory, glory Norn Iron”, so I got them to perform that as well and asked the audience to join in, substituting their version accordingly!

Gold medallists Toronto Courts congratulate North America Blue (silver medallists)

Gold medallists Toronto Courts congratulate NA Blue (silver medallists): Photo © Michael Fisher

Having stood in the control box for three games it was time for me to have a break and I got to see the final period of the Gold Medal game in which Toronto Courts were the victors. After that it was time to help the team whatever way I could. I ended up being a goal judge for the third period of the game between the local side NI Tridents and Reykjavik Ice Falcons, whose warm-up was always preceded by the singing of a song in the dressing room. One Tridents goal came in at my end but it was not enough against the mighty Icelanders, who won 6-2. Two Gardaí are members of the Tridents team. The local fans really got behind the Tridents and hopefully the thrilling atmosphere will have given them a boost as they prepare to return to their day jobs.

Medal Ceremony at the Odyssey Arena

Medal Ceremony at the Odyssey Arena: Photo © Michael Fisher


Russian Home Affairs Ministry  11  Trondheim Fire Department   0  (45+)

Service Incendie de Montréal  7  Finland Police  2  (45+)

UK Firefighters/HMP Tornados  1   South West Finland Emergency Services  11   (Novice)

Toronto Courts  6   North America Blue  4   (Novice Gold Medal Match)

NI Tridents  2   Reykjavik Ice Falcons  6   (Novice)

There will be more action tomorrow (Wednesday), my final day at the Odyssey Arena to bring a busy week to an end. Four matches will be held there and remember, they are all FREE! So drop in to see some fast and exciting action on the ice!

1pm  New York Fire & Ice  v  Trondheim Fire Department   (45+)

3pm  Russian Home Affairs Ministry  v  Service Incendie de Montreál

5pm  Boston Police Emerald Department  v  New York City Fire Department

7pm  Windsor 45s  v  Jyvaskyla Fire

The matches will continue from Friday 2nd until Friday 9th August, but I will not be involved with them as I have other work to do. A full schedule of ice hockey games at the Odyssey Arena and at Dundonald Ice Bowl can be found here. I will be back in action as a volunteer on August 9th and 10th and you will be able to read my blog about my experiences.


With WPFG mascot Emergency Eddie

With WPFG mascot Emergency Eddie

“What do you call a Linfield fan with a bottle of champagne? — ‘Waiter!'” Just one of the jokes from comedian and actor Tim McGarry as he warmed up a crowd of around 3000 members of Team 2013. The volunteers gathered at the King’s Hall in Belfast for a bonding session designed to explain their roles in the forthcoming World Police and Fire Games.

Tim McGarry

Tim McGarry

Around 3500 have been recruited after undergoing an initial interview. They have now been assigned to sixteen teams, each with a specific role such as ceremonies, games administration and medals. As President of Belfast Lions Club, I have offered my services. I have been assigned not to a media role but rather to the logistics team to assist with event management at some of the venues and to deliver equipment and logistics across the Games, a job that will be done by the transport section, which a former colleague of mine in RTÉ will be involved with. I met him amidst the crowd at the induction, which was also attended by my wife who will be joining the Games Ambassador team.

It was a fun occasion and the organisers are determined to make these the friendliest Games ever. Around 7000 competitors from 60 countries will be participating in the event from August 1st-10th, so final preparations are being made over the next 38 days including training for volunteers in their specific roles. After that the volunteers will receive their bright red uniforms, examples of which were modelled for the audience.

The visitors are expected to bring family and friends with them, so it will be quite a boost for the Northern Ireland tourist industry. 56 sports will be held at over 40 venues, many of them in the greater Belfast area, but spread throughout the North. The new Aurora aquatic and leisure complex in Bangor with its 50m Olympic pool will be used for swimming, waterpolo, netball, bench press, push pull, and Toughest Competitor Alive.

Dame Mary Peters who helped the local organisers persuade the WPFG international committee to bring the Games here said they would be the largest ever sporting event in Northern Ireland. Belfast had been shortlisted with Innsbruck in Austria, but won because of the enthusiasm and integrity they had shown in their bid. She said the event would help to enhance the profile of Norn Iron internationally.

PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Judith Gillespie

PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Judith Gillespie

The Police Service of Northern Ireland PSNI are one of the services hosting the games along with the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service NIFRS and the NI Prison Service. Deputy Chief Constable Judith Gillespie said she was immensely proud to be hosting the Games as a Belfast girl. She is a former pupil of Belfast Royal Academy, as she reminded readers of her blog in April.

The Fire and Rescue Service training centre at Boucher Road in Belfast is where the interviews for potential volunteers were carried out: some 6000 people applied originally. It will also be used for some of the training sessions for the different teams of volunteers over the next few weeks. At Custom House Square in Belfast city centre a tented village will be set up where the competitors can gather and get to know each other at the end of the events they take part in.

The second half of the Saturday afternoon session (after a much needed break facilitated by one of the main sponsors Coca-Cola) was introduced by mind-reader, entertainer and speaker David Meade, keeping the large crowd enthralled. Afterwards came speakers representing each of the 16 teams. South Belfast MLA Conall McDevitt is among the team of volunteers and did his best to energise the audience, some of whom had drifted away by that stage. The closing speech was given by the chief executive of Volunteer Now, Wendy Osborne. Roll on the Games!

Volunteering for Team 2013 WPFG

Volunteering for Team 2013 WPFG