First responders must be ready to climb ladders and run down criminals in case of emergencies. But those athletic skills come in handy for another reason every two years with World Police and Fire Games.
Held this year Aug. 7-16 in Los Angeles, the games include more than 50 sports. They aim to encourage physical fitness among first responders and are open to competitors of all levels, with some sports offering multiple divisions to accommodate a range of athletic ability.
“We run the gamut, from world-class athletes to your next door neighbor who’s out for a run,” says Dan Ellison, chief administrative officer of California Police Athletic Federation, the entity that facilitates the games. The events bring an average of 10,000 competitors, plus thousands of family members and spectators to each city. The 2015 games had an economic impact of $84 million in Fairfax, Virginia—a number Ellison calls conservative.
The 2019 games will be in Chengdu, China, and the 2023 games are set for the Netherlands. While sports like cycling and running are included at every World Police and Fire Games, host city’s facilities dictate other options like scuba diving and equestrian events.
Ellison, a 30-year veteran in games leadership, says most police and fire departments are supportive of sending athletes to compete, recognizing healthy, active first responders perform their jobs more effectively. For some competitors, the greatest challenge comes at the airport, as internationally transporting horses for equestrian events and firearms for shooting competitions can be a complicated endeavor.
A highlight for Ellison is witnessing the connections that form between the athletes and their families, who often tag along for their summer vacations. “It’s about staying healthy and fit, but it’s also about the bonds and camaraderie,” he says.