Riots 'won't deter Games visitors'

Riots 'won't deter Games visitors'

Despite having less competitors than originally expected, organisers of the World Police and Fire Games have insisted recent disorder has not deterred visitors from travelling to Northern Ireland.

Speaking at a press briefing on Tuesday, PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Alistair Finlay said there had been no cancellations since the five nights of rioting in Belfast.

He said they had received some queries from people who had viewed news footage of the trouble that broke out following the Twelfth.

"We have done outreach in terms of reassurance and where we have had specific questions we have answered that and been able to right that reassurance and people are still coming to the games," ACC Finlay explained.

"My assessment is that if people are not coming to the games, it is not because of security."

Around 30 dog handlers from police forces across the UK are to be brought in to help the PSNI while duties such as venue security and searching carried out by the private security firm, Resource.

This is the first time the World Police and Fire Games have been hosted on the British Isles and organisers are boasting that this year will see the "friendliest games ever".

Around 10,000 had been expected to take part in the event, which will be staged in Belfast between 1 - 10 August.

But just under 7,000 athletes from 67 countries, the majority of whom are from the US and Canada, have signed up for the Games.

Around 700 registered are from Northern Ireland and 400 are from the Republic.

The deadline has now been extended for competitors who want to take part.

The Opening Ceremony will take place at Kings Hall and will feature singer Brian Kennedy.

The ice hockey will start this week ahead of the Opening Ceremony as there have been so many entries for the sport.

Dame Mary Peters, a patron of the Games, admitted events in the region may have affected numbers but was still positive ahead of the event.

"We had hoped that we might have had more but the unrest at Christmas with the flag issue and recent events may have hampered our number a bit," she said.

"But for those who come we're going to make it so special."

She added: "There will be a huge buzz around Belfast - it will be a fantastic experience that our international competitors and their families will never forget."

Belfast Mayor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir said he has been impressed by the preparation work.

"It's a global event coming to Belfast, the biggest ever sporting event in terms of participants on the island of Ireland," he said.

"I think this will be the friendliest games, the competitors who come from around the world are going to get a really warm welcome and it's going to send a positive message around the world about the new Belfast."


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