Belfast's Lord Mayor Niall O’Donnghaile and the North’s Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure Caral Ni Chuilin were in New York last weekend to announce their city will host the 2013 World Police and Fire Games in Belfast.
The city will play host to approximately 10,000 law enforcement officers and firefighters from all over the world who will compete in a wide variety of sporting events between August 1 and 13, 2013.
“Alongside the competition, it’s an opportunity for Belfast and the North to raise its profile on the international stage by welcoming thousands of international visitors to our shores,” Ni Chuilin told the Irish Voice.
“We’re here in New York to look at the logistics of how the teams interact with each other before they arrive in Belfast. And how we promote the North and all the creative, social and economic opportunities that come with the games will be our focus,” Ni Chuilin added.
Suddenly the North has become an unexpected center for the world’s top stars. This year Belfast has been chosen as the city of entertainment for this year’s MTV Europe Music Awards (known as the EMAs). That means international chart toppers like Lady Gaga, Beyonce and Kanye West will most likely make the trek to Ireland’s northern capital to accept awards for the first time ever.
But the show doesn’t stop there. Further north in Derry the city is gearing up to spend a year as the European City of Culture in 2013, a highly prestigious achievement for the maiden city which will mean it hosts signature arts events like the Turner Prize, attracting tens of thousands of first time visitors.
Meanwhile Belfast’s own Titanic Quarter, the highly successful urban regeneration scheme located in the historic heart of the city, is now the main film center for the medieval drama Game of Thrones, already a huge hit for the HBO network.
The show’s success means it has created a generation of highly skilled Irish set designers, costume designers, lighting designers, sound designers, directors and actors.
“We now have a great pool of talent in terms of arts, culture, music. In Sinn Fein we firmly believe the arts should be free from political interference. And we support social inclusion, so we hope to leave a legacy for people, so we want to support artists now and leave a legacy for those coming after,” said Ni Chuilin.
In New York this week Ni Chuilin held discussions with Irish American cultural ambassadors and arts practitioners at the New York Athletic Club and at the Irish Arts Center. Norman Houston from the Northern Ireland Bureau and Loretta Brennan Glucksman from the American Ireland Fund hosted the event at the Athletic Club, which also included artists and activists involved in the Irish American arts scene in New York.
Speaking about the meeting the Ni Chuilin said, “I was interested to hear how business and philanthropic interests combine to make New York a successful cultural capital. I was also keen to discuss how we can raise awareness and grow links between the arts in the U.S. and Ireland.”