Feel good factor after Games

Published Sunday, 11 August 2013
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Oh me of little faith! I am the first to admit that I was a little sceptical about the World Police and Fire Games as a serious sporting event but having had the chance to sample some of the action I have to eat my words.

Mind you my initial suspicions were fuelled when I watched the Opening Ceremony when quite a few of the competitors were swilling beer from plastic glasses - hardly the sort of thing you'd see at a Commonwealth or Olympic Games.

But as the competition progressed I began to realise that there was something a little special about the WPFG and I don't just mean the various sporting events per se.

I went along to a football match between the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service and their French counterparts on day four at the Dub or Queen's Sport to give the facilities their proper title.

There were more than 400 people watching the game including many women and children although there was no love lost on the pitch as three men were sent off - so much for the 'Friendly Games'!

To put that into perspective the PSNI who play in the third tier of Irish League football would normally attract no more than 50 to their home games at nearby Newforge. And several local Premiership clubs would bite your arm off to have 400 fans at their matches.

Staying with the subject of football I had to laugh when the forces of law and order got on the wrong side of it as a game between the Marbella Police over 35 team and their PSNI counterparts had to be abandoned by the referee who felt things were getting out of control after a couple of red cards were dished out.

It was a genuine team effort right down from Chief Executive John Tully through to the 3,600 volunteers and the general public who embraced the Games which were endorsed as the best ever by the world governing body.

Speaking of which what a good job the Irish FA did in making sure every game had not just a referee but two linesmen, something clubs in the Championship in Northern Ireland didn't enjoy until a couple of years ago.

And the facilities at Upper Malone, where much of the outdoor sport took place, were first class with football, gaelic and rugby pitches resembling bowling greens.

But if you think the crowds at the football were big, what about the ice hockey? More than 50,000 people packed into the Odyssey for the 80-game series.

Belfast Giants General manager Todd Kelman did a fantastic job in drumming up support as he succeeded in replicating the sort of atmosphere generated at Elite League matches at the same venue.

But the crowds just didn't turn up by accident - there was a huge amount of promotional work that went on in local schools as pupils learned not only about the WPFG but the work that the Emergency Forces undertake as well.

I was privileged to go along on a bus man's holiday to watch the gaelic football finals at the Dub Arena last Thursday: 'I'll give you a shout but the final will probably start late.' Again, me of little faith as I reported back to the sports department who had sent a camera crew up.

How wrong I was! The throw-in took place bang on time on the dot of 4pm as scheduled and the stand was absolutely packed with 700 fans and there wasn't or a brolly in sight as the sun continued to shine.

Ulster GAA Officials along with 1991 Down All Ireland winner Mark McCartan, the GAA Co-Ordinator, made sure everything ran like clockwork and the game was a magnificent advertisement for seven-a-side football as the star-studded Garda team beat the NIFRS 4-21 to 2-10 in a thrill-a-minute encounter.

Once again the Dub Arena stand was packed to capacity the following day for the rugby sevens final despite the fact there was no 'local interest' as the New Zealanders, as expected, beat their GB counterparts.

The United States topped the medal table but everyone who was involved in the running of the event, the volunteers and the Northern Ireland public who turned up in such numbers deserves a gold for their efforts.

And to the 7,000 competitors, coaches and backroom staff along with their friends and families who were our guests for the past fortnight, we hope you enjoyed our hospitality and we hope to see you back again in 'our wee country' very soon!

© UTV News
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7 Comments
Reverend Alexandra Arden in Toronto,Canada wrote (431 days ago):
As an International Volunteer, I applaud the people of Belfast for all your hospitality; as a VIP Delegate I sincerely thank Tania Rothwell and Lynne Greenwood for making me feel "At Home" in your beautiful city and thank Firefighters for Christ NI for taking care of me!
fed up in belfast wrote (432 days ago):
the wpfg did not promote the ice hockey it was down to individual volunteers and team members that did it they only came on board when they saw a chance to get some credit.
Evalina van Haastere-Groen in Amsterdam wrote (434 days ago):
I was one of the competitors (rowing-indoor). Thanks for having the games in NI and I thank the volunteers.
Mark McCartan in Belfast wrote (436 days ago):
John, a public thanks for your support over the games. The whole experiance was simply the best thing ever to happen to Belfast. Congratulations to all involed
johnny davis in Belfast wrote (436 days ago):
Flackers, Thanks for your kind words. I was privileged to be the Head Of Sports Delivery for the Games and I cant praise the Sports Governing Bodies and the Sports Coordinators enough for their expertise and support. Without them the Games simply could not have taken place. We are all deeply indebted to every single one of them. Here's to NI hosting more events of this stature - we now know we can do it.
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John Flack
John Flack

John Flack is a producer for UTV's Sport department.

A seasoned writer and reporter, John knows local sport like no one else.

From Irish League football to local hockey via Ulster rugby and GAA, John's knowledge is second to none.

A big fan of Spanish football, in his spare time he enjoys reading about sport and travelling, particularly to sunnier climes.

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