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

TEAM 2013 WPFG

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