Final countdown begins for opening ceremony of games

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As the official opening of the World Police and Fire Games (WPFG) approaches, preparations are continuing apace.

Rehearsals for the ceremony at the King’s Hall on Thursday are soon to get under way, and among those steeling themselves for their upcoming performance are a choir made up of aspiring showbiz personalities, who have been chosen to sing at the ceremony.

The group are called Groundswell, and are managed by east Belfast-based creative producer Jenny Cooke OBE.

Almost all aged between 20 and 25, the members are “alumni” of the cross-community singing charity Music Theatre 4 Youth, who have gone on to have professional careers in the entertainment industry.

Mrs Cooke said they will perform three songs – Days Like This (permission for which has been granted for free by Van Morrison), Songs of Love (similarly provided by The Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon), and a song which she hopes could be regarded as a “national anthem of Northern Ireland”.

Called “Be The Change”, it was written by English composer Tim Sutton and debuted last year.

She said: “I’m very proud of the young people, and how they’ve done so well ... how they’re spending time pushing and driving this. All have careers and are busy – they’re all doing something significant in the business.”

Among those due to perform are Jayne Wisener (who was in the Johnny Depp film Sweeney Todd) and Niamh Perry (who had played Sophie in the West End production of Mamma Mia!).

Meanwhile the ice hockey elements of the games continued, having begun on Thursday, with the NI Tridents last night beating the UK Firefighters/HMP Tornados by 4-2.

And on Wednesday the ice hockey will be joined by the cycling (hill climb) event at Stormont, and handball at Queen’s University’s PEC; the two other sports also to begin before the opening ceremony.

Meanwhile, Translink reiterated its call for travellers to be aware of the large numbers expected at the opening ceremony, where doors open from 3pm.

John Tully, chief executive of the 2013 WPFG, said in a statement: “With over 14,000 people attending the opening ceremony and security to be cleared at the entrance, we are advising people to travel early, at least before 4pm and to take advantage of Translink’s special services.”

Translink shuttle services (bus and train) will depart from Great Victoria Street Rail Station from 2.30pm.