With less than a year to go before the 2015 World Police and Fire Games are expected to attract in excess of 30,000 visitors to Northern Virginia and the surrounding area, many local public safety officials are working behind the scenes to ensure the games’ success.
Outnumbering even the Summer Olympics in terms of competitors, the first-responder-based athletic games — known locally as Fairfax 2015 — will play host to more than 12,000 police, fire and emergency official 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 be held in Fairfax County at various venues June 26-July 5, 2015.
George Mason University is slated to be a large part of the event, with its aquatics center, track and fieldhouse taking center stage.
“We will also be using GMU’s baseball stadium,” said 2nd Lt. Tony Shobe of the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office, who is the director of sports for the games. “The suburban setting of Fairfax County presents some challenges because the events are somewhat spread out. Usually the games are held in more of a compact urban setting. Transporting the athletes in particular is challenging.”
The sheer number of events are keeping organizers on their feet.
“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, Fairfax 2015 president and CEO.
Knight said a full slate of more career-oriented events for 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.
Security is another major concern for organizers.
Major Richard Perez of the Fairfax County Police Department is in charge of security for the games.
“There are best practices and existing security templates for putting together security for a mega-event like this,” said Perez. “We don’t disclose too much about the details, but I will say that our security will be comprehensive and will include community input, awareness and participation as well as participation from our federal, state and local law enforcement partners.”
Battalion Chief Jerome Williams of the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Dept. and Lt. Bruce Blechl of the Fairfax County Police Dept. have worked together to bring the international games to Fairfax County for nine years.
“Jerome and I met as competitors during the 1999 games in Sweden,” said Blechl. “Our paths had never crossed locally, but we found out that we lived only a few miles from one another. We started working together to bring the games to Fairfax County, and in 2005, we put in a bid for the 2013 games and lost to Belfast, Ireland. We were encouraged to apply again, and then we won the bid for the 2015 games.”
Williams said hosting the games in his hometown is a dream come true.
“Our goal was always to bring the games to Fairfax County,” Williams said. “We wanted to showcase the area and represent both Fairfax County and the United States.”
The games are expected to generate between $80 and $100 million of economic activity to the National Capital Region. 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.”
Many other local public safety personnel are also working behind the scenes in a variety of disciplines.
“Producing an event of this magnitude requires an infrastructure that spans 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.”
For more information about the games or to learn how to apply to be a volunteer, go to www.fairfax2015.com, or call 202-480-9734.