In less than 500 days, Fairfax County will host the largest one-time event in the county’s history in terms of visitors it will attract, and revenue it will likely generate for the area.
The 2015 World Police and Fire Games are expected to attract in excess of 30,000 visitors and generate between $80 and $100 million of economic activity to the National Capital Region when the games take place June 26-July 5, 2015.
Outnumbering even the Summer Olympics in terms of competitors (10,568 athletes participated in the 2012 London Summer Games), the first-responder-based athletic games — known locally as Fairfax 2015 — will play host to more than 12,000 police, fire and emergency athletes as they take part in more than 60 sporting events.
The activities will take place in Northern Virginia, Washington, D.C., and parts of Maryland, but officials say 80 percent of the games will take place in Fairfax County at various venues.
Officials say George Mason University is slated to be a large part of the event, with its aquatics center, track and fieldhouse taking center stage.
“Team competitions will include everything from baseball, basketball, softball and soccer to flag football, volleyball, dodge ball, rugby and ice hockey while individuals will compete in tennis, golf, boxing, bowling, swimming, martial arts, running, wrestling, table tennis, darts and more,” said Bill Knight, 48, who assumed the position of Fairfax 2015 president and CEO in November 2012.
Knight said a full slate of more career-oriented events for sworn police, fire and emergency personnel will fill out the competition, including activities such as: SWAT team, muster, orienteering, dragon boat, honor guard, pistol and rifle games, biathlon, ultimate firefighter and Toughest Competitor Alive, among others.
“By the numbers, there will be 12,000 or so athletes from 70 countries who will win 1,600 medals as they participate in 61 different sporting events at 53 different venues in 10 different jurisdictions over 10 days,” Knight said. “And those 12,000 athletes are expected to bring about 20,000 friends and family members along with them, making the total number of international visitors about 32,000.”
Barry Biggar, CEO of Visit Fairfax, said Fairfax County has never before hosted an event of this magnitude.
“It is certainly the single largest event we have ever seen,” he said. “The direct economic impact to the region is $80 million, but if you factor in the indirect economics such as the hundreds of extra people that local restaurants and hotels will employ during the games, and the money from those paychecks that will likely be spent here as well, the real figure is more like $100 million.”
Knight said Reston Town Center will serve as the event’s version of an “Olympic Village” and will provide entertainment, vendors and various expos. The Regency Hyatt hotel there serving as the residence for many athletes and their families. Shuttle buses will run to the town center from Metro’s Silver Line station on Wiehle Avenue.
“The opening ceremonies are currently planned to take place at RFK Stadium in D.C.,” Knight said. “We will have a top-line entertainer and the opening will set the tone for the event.”
Knight said it was too early to know for certain who that entertainer will be.
In addition to Fairfax County, events are currently planned in the District and Maryland, as well as in Loudoun and Prince William counties.
Originally launched in San Jose, Calif., in 1985, the biennial World Police and Fire games have so far taken place in seven different countries across three continents. The 2017 games are currently slated for Montreal while 2019 will mark the Games’ first venture into Asia as the Sichuan Province of China plays host that year.
Competition is open to all active and retired sworn officers — police, firefighters, paramedics, customs and corrections officers — representing local, state, provincial, national and federal agencies from around the world.
“Producing an event of this magnitude requires an infrastructure that spans many multiple disciplines, and we are proud of the team we have assembled to date,” Knight said. “Our social media division, headed by Fairfax County firefighter Craig Lueke, is already miles beyond any prior Games’ effort. This bodes extremely well for attracting athletes and volunteers, both of whom comprise the fundamental core of our event.”
Knight said he and his 16-person full-time management team will soon be looking for 4,000 or so volunteers to help with more than 26 different functional areas such as logistics, security and volunteer management.
“It’s no small feat,” he said. “Luckily, I have some experience at this sort of thing. I was a former executive with the Atlanta Olympics, the Atlanta Super Bowl and the FIFA World Cup USA in 1994. Even so, this is probably the largest multi-disciplinary event I think I have ever been in charge of.”
For additional information about the games, go to www.fairfax2015.com, or call 202-480-9734.