Destination Sheffield: the World Firefighters Games are coming to the South Yorkshire and Humberside regions

Destination Sheffield: the World Firefighters Games are coming to the South Yorkshire and Humberside regions – firefighter games

S Worthy

In August and September in 2004, firefighters and fire service personnel from all over the world will descend on South Yorkshire and Humberside. They are coming, many with their families, to meet their opposite numbers from the UK Fire Service and compete in the World Firefighters Games (WFG). The WFG is a prestigious, international sporting event and the advantages of holding the games, will benefit not only the host brigades, but the whole of the UK Fire Service.

The WFG embrace an identical ethos to our own Sports and Athletics Association and showing the games the same encouragement, enthusiasm and commitment, the chief fire officers of South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service and Humberside Fire Brigade, Barry O’Donnell and Keith Marshall and their respective fire authorities have all given full backing to the project.

Speaking earlier, South Yorkshire CFO Barry O’Donnell said: “Since the birth of the games back in 1988, I have seen the World Firefighters Games grow in both size and stature. They now attract well over 4,000 fire service competitors from all over the world and I look forward to welcoming all of them and their families to South Yorkshire and Humberside in 2004.”

Humberside CFO Keith Marshall was also one of the first to recognise the benefits of bringing the WFG to the UK: “The games’ philosophy is the mixing of competitive sport, friendship and fun with raising money for good causes. The games are not just a sporting event it’s an occasion that can be shared by families, friends and the community”


The concept of a World Firefighters Games was developed around 1988 in Auckland, New Zealand. Much of the motivation behind the concept was some of the limitations experienced in conjunction with competing in the World Police and Fire Games, which was the only other vehicle for international competition at that time.

One of the significant issues was that the Police and Fire Games are open only to full-time paid firefighters.

As most Fire Services throughout the world operate using a large percentage of volunteer personnel, the existing vehicle was excluding most firefighters from the right to compete.

The First World Firefighters Games were held in Auckland in 1990 with about 1,800 competitors. Since then the event has been held every two years and has grown in the number of both participating countries and competitors.


After the Auckland Games, the commercial naivety of firefighters was exposed when business interests registered the name of the games, etc. Effectively this threatened the main concept on which the games were developed, that is–run by firefighters for firefighters.

However, the next games were allocated to Perth and the organising committee for those games felt so strongly about the issue of the games becoming a vehicle for profit at the expense of firefighters, that they negotiated and bought back the rights from the commercial owners. The rights are still owned by Perth, which has become the home of the World Governing Body.

The World Governing Body formally licences each host Fire Service to use the games name, etc, for the planning and running of the event. The games are entirely non-profit making and all monies raised go to charity. The three main beneficiaries for 2004 are;

The British Burn Association has a membership of people actively engaged in some aspect of the care of the burned patient or of anyone playing an active part in attempting to reduce the incidence and noxious effect of burning injury.

The Childrens Fire and Burn Trust has a twofold aim, the coordination of education for children in fire and burn safety prevention and also the long term rehabilitation of children suffering from burns.

And the third beneficiary is the charity close to every firefighter’s heart, The Fire Services National Benevolent Fund.

Generally, as the Games have grown in stature over the years, they are now a very marketable event, creating wide interest among firefighters and the general public. See table below.

The range of countries and continents in which the games have been held has provided a continuously expanding interest in the games, which has been developing its own international culture, based on “Firefighters for Firefighters”. The move onto continental Europe in 2000, clearly introduced the games to a larger range of European countries.

It is hoped that this new interest will continue. Experience of past games indicates that once a country becomes involved, they do carry their interest into future games.


The games have a core list of events and a number of other events that have been added over the years to meet new demands or simply to share new “specialist” sports with countries that do not normally have the opportunity for involvement.

The first games established a specialist event called the Toughest Firefighter Alive. This event focussed on a series of firefighters’ skills and matched competitors against each other and the clock. This has remained in every games since and other firefighting specialities have been added over the years.

While the games are competitive with athletes striving to win the various competitions and so gain the spoils (gold, silver or bronze medals), the camaraderie and forging of new friendships is the big winner.

Naturally, this leads to many discussions on firefighting and fire safety strategies that add to the wealth of knowledge in all participating countries.

Both South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service and Humberside Fire Brigade have a long history of association with the WFG. Both brigades’ philosophy runs parallel with the principles behind the games. This includes:

* To promote health and fitness;

* To provide a forum for exchanging information between fire services, both nationally and internationally;

* To foster friendship between all fire service personnel;

* To encourage international family unity; and

* To raise money for nominated fire service charities.


Although the games are to be hosted equally by both brigades, many of the events will be centred around Sheffield, the first British city to be named a ‘national city of sport’ Sheffield has a number of world class sporting venues and has hosted many international sporting events.

Sheffield is a city that surprises people when they see it for the first time. It is the greenest city in England with a wealth of parks and woodlands, it’s a welcoming and lively city with a vibrant entertainment and cultural scene combined with some of the best international sporting facilities in the country.

Sheffield is a multi-cultural city that embraces both its heritage and diverse international influences. A combination of pride in the past and imaginative forward-thinking can be found throughout the city. Sheffield is known internationally as the home of quality manufacturing and the ‘Made in Sheffield’ mark is respected worldwide as a sign of good craftsmanship.

The world famous steel, engineering and cutlery industries are still known for quality and innovation. The city still has a strong manufacturing element but it is also gaining a growing reputation for its high tech and leisure industries.

Sheffield is under constant improvement and there have been huge investments in regenerating major parts of the city–the Millennium Galleries, the Peace Gardens and the Cultural Industries Quarter are just some of the successes the regeneration will continue.

With a population of just over a million, Sheffield is well situated in the centre of Britain. It has excellent transport links to the rest of the country and with the surrounding Yorkshire and Humber regions. The spectacular Peak District National Park is only a short distance from the city centre.

Sheffield has first class sport and leisure facilities. The first British city to be named a ‘national city of sport’, it boasts Don Valley Stadium, Sheffield Arena and Ponds Forge International Sports Centre.

Don Valley Stadium

This award winning venue plays host to the cream of the sporting and entertainment worlds. With a capacity of 25,000 seats, it has earned the name Premier Athletics Stadium in the United Kingdom and is the Government’s preferred venue for the United Kingdom to host the 2005 World Athletics Championships

Sheffield Arena

Voted Venue of the Year seven times by the entertainment industry, this 12,000 indoor-seated stadium continues to attract the biggest names in sport and entertainment.

Don Valley Bowl

This will be the epicentre for the whole of the Games in 2004. It is perfectly placed within walking distance to all the main stadiums. It will be the venue for the Games Village.

Ponds Forge International Sports Centre

Best known for hosting one of the most technically advanced Olympic standard pools in the world, Ponds Forge is an international sports centre with first class fitness and health facilities.

Sheffield Ski Village

The city has a unique leisure venue in Sheffield Ski Village, Europe’s largest artificial ski resort. This superb facility is built into natural slopes on the city’s skyline. It has huge virtual snow slopes, nursery slopes, toboggan run and snowboard jump.

In addition to the superb facilities already mentioned, Sheffield has a wealth of other sporting venues most of which will be used to some extent during the 2004 Games. They include Concord Sports Centre, Hillsborough Leisure Centre, Enfield Arms, Woodbourne Road Athletics Stadium and ICE Sheffield.

These leading venues host international athletics and a wide range of sporting championships. Anyone who lives in the city will tell you, Sheffield is a great place. From the arts to entertainment, from sport to culture, there is something for everyone.

Out of Town Attractions

Sheffield has been described as a city within a country setting. With the beautiful Peak Park on the doorstep, there are excellent opportunities for walking, rambling, rock climbing, caving and cycling.

Historic castles, gardens and stately homes such as Chatsworth House, Haddon Hall and Hardwick Hall are all within easy reach.

For those who enjoy water in a stunning setting, then it’s worth a visit to scenic Dovedale with its famous stepping stones crossing the River Dove. Don’t miss the Ladybower reservoir and dams, noted for its historic links with Barnes Wallace and the testing of Dam Busters Bouncing Bomb.

Those who fancy a flutter can spend their day indulging in the sports of kings–at nearby Doncaster Racecourse home of the famous St Ledger.

On a final note, as mentioned, the World Firefighters Games are run by firefighters for firefighters, that means you. So, if you’re a semi professional or a weekend warrior, Sheffield is looking forward to welcoming you.

Basic statistics for the previous Games look like this:

Year City Country Competitors

1990 Auckland New Zealand 1,800 + 1,400 supporters

1992 Las Vegas USA 4,000

1994 Perth Australia 2,000 + 1,000 supporters

1996 Edmonton Canada 2,300 + 1,500 supporters

1998 Durban South Africa 1,800 + 500 supporters

2000 Mantes France 4,000 + 600 visitors

2002 Christchurch New Zealand 2,000 + 500

2004 Sheffield United Kingdom 4,500 + 1,000 (Expected)

Year Countries Events

1990 17 34

1992 22 45

1994 21 48

1996 25 54

1998 26 55

2000 56 61

2002 72


The 2004 list of events includes:


Sailing (Laser Class),

Athletics–Track & Field,




High Angle Rescue,

Softball–Slow Pitch,

Arm Wrestling,

Hose Shoes,



In Line Hockey,



Ice Hockey,

Skiing–Slalom (Dry

Ski Slope),

Bucket Brigade,


Skiing–Snow Board (Dry Ski Slope),

Body Building,


Toughest Firefighter Alive,


Lawn Bowls,

Tug of War,




Marathon–Half and full,

Ten Pin Bowling,



Table Tennis,

Cross Country,




Power Lifting,


Cycling–Mountain Bike,

Pool (8 Ball/9 Ball),


Cycling–Road Race,



Diving Board,

Rowing Machine,



Roller Sprint,

Closing Ceremony,

Dragon Boat,

Rugby 7s,

Fire Extinguish,

Swimming (Pool),

Fire Truck Rodeo, and

Swimming 1500m (open Water).

Further information can be obtained from the WFG web site on; or by post to the WFG Office, 2-10 Carbrook Hall Road, Sheffield, 59 2DB, England, or by phoning either the South Yorkshire or Humberside brigades on +44(0)114 2727202 or +44 (0)1482 565333.

COPYRIGHT 2003 DMG World Media Ltd.

COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group