Liverpool opens arms for games

Published:  01 June, 2008

Dave Robinson joined the fire service 34 years ago when he was just 16, and he is now an Area Manager for Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service. He has been involved with the Games for three years since the time of the initial bid, and has now been working full-time on the project for the last 18 months.

Why Liverpool?


We wanted this to be our contribution towards Liverpool’s celebrations as European Capital of Culture for 2008. We were short-listed against Dubai and Northern Ireland and when we won the elation lasted five minutes – then we realised just how big a task it was. But it was a great feeling. I’ve attended the WFG in Hong Kong 2006 and the World Police & Fire Games 2007 in Adelaide. But the unique thing about WFG08 is that they are totally non-profit making and all surplus funds will go to seven very worthwhile charities.

What makes the Games special?


There is a definite feeling of camaraderie – after all a fire in Perth is the same as a fire in Portsmouth. Networking and socialising is done over a pint, and when the Games start no ice-breaking is needed – everyone is talking the same language.


For a lot of competitors this is a biennial holiday and they sacrifice a holiday in the intervening year so they can come along and bring their families. We are well aware of that, so we have family events and a social programme too, starting with an Olympic-style Opening Ceremony on August 25 – a public Bank Holiday in the UK.


Why did you choose that particular week for the Games?


We chose that particular week because it’s when the Mathew Street Festival takes place, Europe’s biggest free open air music festival, and we wanted our competitors and visitors to enjoy it. We are staging a massive Opening Ceremony at the Liverpool Echo Arena to launch the Games, and this will include a parade of all the competitors walking behind their nation’s flag bearers, plus the impressive sounds of the Irish Guards and Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. We will also have a helicopter display team and rescue displays on the River Mersey.

You also have some community programmes in place?


Yes, we have 12 WFG08 Community Engagement projects running in tandem with the Games. For one project we have teamed up with the Rugby Football Union, whose top instructors have trained some of our firefighters to deliver rugby coaching in schools. That’s going really well and it gets the kids playing sport instead of sitting at their computers. We have also bought a skateboarding half-pipe, which we take to different locations to promote the Games and sport in general. It is great because it attracts a particular type of person and gets them doing physical activities.

What has been the biggest challenge  so far?


One of the biggest tasks was pulling together a team to deliver an event on this scale and attracting enough volunteers to support the event.
A small but committed core team is in place, supported by six group co-ordinators and 51 event managers. We have come together to deliver 73 events in 43 venues – and are working tirelessly to make this the most successful WFG in the event’s 20-year history.
The volunteers are the face of the Games. We are aiming for 1,000 volunteers and so far we have more than 500, and we are providing training and uniforms. They will be dispersed among the 73 events across Liverpool, North England and North Wales. Locations include Rivington Pike – one of the top 10 mountain biking locations in Europe; Manchester where the new indoor skiing and snowboarding centre Chill Factore opened recently; and North Wales for white water rafting. We have also introduced an equestrian event for the first time at the World Firefighters Games – taking place at the world-famous Aintree Racecourse, home of the Grand National.
A popular event will be the Fire House Cook Off, which is where competitors are given £10 ($20/12 euros) to rustle up a meal for four – that’s going to be fun!

How is registration going?


It’s going really well. So far over 1,200 have already registered from 28 nations, but we’ve been informed that most registrations happen in the last three months. When the event was last held in the UK, in Sheffield 2004, they had more people registering after the closing date than before – so at least we’re prepared for that!

Final message about WFG08?


To encourage firefighters to attend we have done everything we possibly can to keep costs down. We have managed to secure very reasonably priced accommodation, which starts from as little as £20. We have also just slashed the cost of the Games’ Travel Pass from £40 to just £5! Finally, if you want to compete then register now as event places are quickly filling up. We look forward to giving you a warm Liverpool welcome – and see you in August!

  • Operation Florian

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