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Saturday, February 8, 2014

Bigger than the Olympics: World Police and Fire Games in Fairfax in 2015

The Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, might be getting all the attention now, but there’s going to be an even bigger worldwide athletic competition next year, and it’s going to be right here in Fairfax County.

The World Police and Fire Games (WPFG) will draw more than 12,000 competitors from over 70 countries, compared to 2,800 in Sochi and about 10,500 at the Summer Olympics.

There are lots of other differences between the two global events: The WPFG are free and open to the public and will take place in existing facilities, said 2nd Lt. Bruce Blechl of the Fairfax County Police Department, who‘s been assigned to work on the games full time and gave a presentation on WPFG at the Mason Police District’s Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) Feb. 4.

Also, the competitions is more about team building and camaraderie than world domination. And don’t expect the opening ceremony to be a multimillion dollar high-tech extravaganza like the one at Sochi.

The WPFG, June 26-July 5, 2015, will have more than 60 separate competitions, including traditional sports like basketball, soccer, cycling, softball, and track and field. There will also be non-Olympics events, like dodgeball, paintball, golf, and billiards, plus events geared to the skills needed by first responders, such as K-9 skills, honor guard, and racing up 25 flights of stairs.

At the 2013 games last summer in Belfast, Ireland, Fairfax County police officers Mike Tucker and Mark Kidd won gold medals in darts, and Fairfax County firefighter Sam Gray won a silver medal in indoor rowing and bronze in mountain running.

The events at the 2015 games will be spread out across the D.C. region, but about 80 percent will take place in Fairfax County. Most events, including basketball and boxing, will be at George Mason University. The 2015 WPFG are being organized in partnership with the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce.

Blechl urges members of the public to volunteer; about 3,200 volunteers will be needed. There’s a preliminary volunteer interest form on the WPFG website, and a more detailed form should be available in a few months.

“This is such an exciting opportunity for us in Fairfax County,” said Mason Supervisor Penny Gross. “We’ve been working on this for a long time. I hope you will all get involved,” she told the audience at the CAC meeting.

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