The World Police and Fire Games (WPFG), also known as Fairfax 2015, are underway throughout the county and the region. Nearly 10,000 athletes, who are public safety professionals – police, firefighters, sheriff’s deputies, corrections officers, border patrol – have gathered to compete for medals, and bragging rights, in more than 60 sports.
The opening ceremony at RFK Stadium was thrilling, as thousands of competitors marched around the track, preceded by Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Brownies, and even a Daisy Scout, bearing a sign for each country. British bobbies wore their signature helmets, the Canadian team tossed dozens of flying discs announcing the 2017 games in Montreal, the Norwegian team sported Viking horns, and the team from Bermuda was dressed fashionably in navy jackets and, yes, red Bermuda shorts! A fabulous female drum team kept up the pace for more than an hour, adding to the excitement of the evening.
Following the march of the athletes, the formal part of the program included a welcome from Chairman Sharon Bulova, as well as Fairfax County Deputy County Executive for Public Safety Dave Rohrer, and officials of Fairfax 2015. A special surprise guest was General Colin Powell, former Secretary of State, whose speech memorialized the events of September 11, 2001. The Games also created a WPFG Hall of Fame and inducted its first 10 honorees on Friday evening. As the sun was setting, the traditional torch was carried into the stadium by survivors of Fairfax County police officers killed in the line of duty. The final lap was completed by Fairfax County Fire Battalion Chief Jerome Williams, who ignited a huge cauldron whose flames rose into the upper decks of the stadium, and concluded the ceremony.
The Games will continue this week; admission to the sporting events is free, although some competitions will require tickets because of venue capacity. A complete schedule of activities and venues is available at http://fairfax2015.com. The Athletes Village is at the Reston Town Center, and is open to the public. Closing ceremonies will be held on Sunday, July 5, at Wolf Trap Center for the Performing Arts. Fairfax County public safety officials, with the concurrence of the Board of Supervisors, worked for nearly 10 years to bring the games to the county. The original games started in California in the late 1960s, and became international in 1985. The WPFG is the second-largest international sporting event in the world; only the Summer Olympics has a larger complement of participating athletes. The biennial games are scheduled for Montreal in 2017, and Chengdu, China, in 2019.
It is fitting that the World Police and Fire Games overlap with the celebration of our nation’s 239th birthday this weekend. And even more fitting that it is happening near such historic surroundings as Mount Vernon and Gunston Hall, homes of our first president, George Washington, and the author of the Bill of Rights, George Mason. The cradle of our liberty is shared with so many this week. Happy Fourth of July!
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at email@example.com.