Northern Ireland

3,400 set for World Police and Fire Games in Belfast

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Media captionWorld Police & Fire Games chief Mike Graham confident Belfast event will be a success

Organisers of the World Police and Fire Games have confirmed that just under 3,500 athletes have registered for this summer's event.

That is almost 7,000 down on the government's projected target of 10,000 participants.

World Police and Fire games president Mike Graham said it was much too early to panic.

He said in his experience a "late registration surge is typical".

"I can't guarantee the outcome, but based on our experience fire-fighters and police officers are procrastinators and if it wasn't for the eleventh hour they would never register," he added

The Belfast games are due to run from 1 August to 10 August.

Official figures released on Wednesday confirmed that to date some 3,406 athletes had registered, but chief executive of the Belfast games, John Tully, said "another 2,417 were in the pipeline, as some teams had registered under a captain".

Athletes from more than 50 countries are due to take part in 57 different sports at 42 venues across Northern Ireland.

To date, the USA tops the list of competitors, with some 585 competitors registered. In contrast, there are 212 registered from the UK and 151 from the Republic of Ireland.

The games will cost £14m to stage, £7m of which comes fom the public purse.

Northern Ireland sport minister Caral Ni Chuilin said the "remainder of the money would come from sponsorship deals and registration fees".

She said a "conservative estimate" was that the games "would be worth £21.5m to the economy".

Organisers confirmed that some competitors had sought assurances over safety.

PSNI deputy chief constable Judith Gillespie, who is chair of the Belfast World Police and Fire Games, said the event represented a "positive opportunity" to put "Northern Ireland on the map".

She said they would be working with "partners to ensure this is a safe event" and confirmed that if necessary the games could be scaled back.

"With any major event you would expect us to do some scenario planning and this is no different," she said.

Registration remains open until 1 August.

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