Plans for Liverpool to host the World Firefighter Games in 2008 are gathering pace. The games, which have been described as a mini-Olympics for firefighters, are expected to be one the biggest events in the city’s Capital of Culture programme. The event is held every two years at different locations across the globe, with previous games having been staged in America, New Zealand, Canada, France, South Africa and China.
Liverpool’s games will be held from August 25 to September 3, with more than 5,000 competitors from all over the world heading to the city.
An opening ceremony will be held at the Liverpool Echo Arena at King’s Dock on Bank Holiday Monday, August 25 – the final day of the Mathew Street Festival.
More than 10,000 spectators will see the competitors led in by a fire brigade band and an Olympic-style flame will be handed over and lit.
Gerry Marsden will conclude the event by singing Ferry Cross the Mersey and You’ll Never Walk Alone.
There will then be a dinner for competitors, after which they will be able to join the crowds at the Mathew Street Festival.
A smaller-scale closing ceremony, which will also take place at the arena, will hand over to 2010 hosts South Korea, who will stage a special event during Liverpool’s games.
Mersey side chief fire officer Tony McGuirk, said: “The World Firefighter Games 2008 is going to be a highlight of the Capital of Culture year.
“It is traditionally strongly supported by firefighters from across the world, with thousands of competitors taking part.
“We are going to make it a fantastic family event that everyone from Merseyside can come along and enjoy.
“Our plans are well under way and we are particularly excited by the big names we are attracting – both as entertainment and as sponsors. It will be an event to remember for everyone who comes along.”
The event will cost an estimated pounds 2m and organisers say they are on track to raise these funds in time for the games.
Of the budget, pounds 1.7m will come from the fire authority, the Culture Company, the North West Development Agency, a Government grant, the Foundation for Sport and the Arts, the private sector and competitors themselves.
The remaining pounds 300,000 will come in the form of benefits in kind, and event planners are also hoping to receive a pounds 120,000 Sport Aid grant.
Goretex is providing clothing, IT is being provided and two further sponsors are being sought.
The Mersey Partnership has arranged 1,000 rooms for competitors in economy hotels and some others will be able to camp out, possibly at Aintree Racecourse.
An “Adopt a Firefighter” scheme, where firefighters would stay in people’s homes, is also being considered.
To date, 71 sporting events have been planned for the games, including both team and individual events, ranging from combat sports to track and field.
Events will take place at Aintree Racecourse and other venues in and around Merseyside.
The main event is the Toughest Firefighter Alive competition, which will include various assault courses and will conclude with a staircase run in full firefighting kit and breathing apparatus up the Radio City Tower.
There will also be an Iron Dog event for firefighting dogs.