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Int'l badge battle
to honor heroes

Thursday, January 11th, 2007

We didn't get the Olympics.
Boy, are we lucky. Because we're going to get something better and cleaner and politics-free coming to New York in 2011.

It's called the World Police & Fire Games, with 18,000 athletes from law enforcement and fire services from 70 countries descending on New York City from Aug. 26 to Sept. 5, 2011, for a 10-day battle of the badges involving thousands of events in 65 categories, including 40 Olympic sports like boxing, wrestling, volleyball, swimming, golf and baseball, in venues across all five boroughs.

There will be a fund-raiser Thursday, at the Jacob Javits Convention Center, and although the games won't be held until 2011, the clock already is ticking loudly on an event this massive.

"This extravaganza will bring $100 million in revenue to the city," says Jim Carney, the president and CEO of the 2011 World Police & Fire Games. "In Barcelona in 2003, 60,000 people showed up for opening day alone. In Quebec, in 2005, an Olympics record was set in swimming. A lot of people here have never heard of these games but that's because this is the first time the games have ever come to an East Coast American city. But everyone from every nation agreed that in 2011 these games should be held here in New York City where we will also have a huge memorial service to commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11."

There can be no better tribute to the police and firemen who died so heroically on Sept. 11, 2001, than to have cops and firemen from around the world converge on this still-wounded city in these games.

Carney, a decorated Marine Vietnam veteran who fought near Da Nang during the Tet Offensive and who is fluent in Vietnamese, was a New York City firefighter for 24 years. "I worked out of the Harlem Hilton in 39 Engine on 143rd St.," he says. "But, like most firemen, I had a second job, moonlighting as liaison for trade shows. I was the guy who put together the unions and the industries to mount trade shows in places like the New York Coliseum and later the Javits Center. Since I retired from FDNY three years ago, I do trade shows all over the country."

Carney was also the guy who organized the 2002 9/11 Memorial at Madison Square Garden, packing 25,000 people into the arena, with tens of thousands more spilling out into the streets of Manhattan to watch on Jumbotrons.

With his passion for the mindset that attracts special people to first responder jobs, and his grand organizational skills, Carney was the logical pick to mount the 2011 WPFG in New York.

"This is gonna cost, like, $12.2 million, to pull off," says Carney. "We're getting a lot of cooperation from the city, especially the mayor and police and fire commissioners. The Parks Department has been great, giving us venues for a lot of our events in all the boroughs. The Javits Center will be the hub of our operation and there's a table in the lobby there with information about the games.

"We're hoping to have baseball out in KeySpan Park in Coney Island. We're hoping to get a lot of in-kind help from sports organizations. We're talking to the Yankees, Mets, Madison Square Garden. It would be nice to have the finals in a place like the Garden."

If the new stadium for the Brooklyn Nets is erected by then, this is exactly the kind of goodwill event for the people of Atlantic Yards to get behind as a gesture to the community.

There is much fund-raising to do, bureaucracies to navigate, planning to be done. That's why it's so important for Carney to get started now, four years before the event.

"I've been to these games in cities all over the world," says Carney. "You have no idea how great the camaraderie is among the athletes and the fans. Oh, believe me, the competition is fierce.

"But the athletes march in, waving their home country flags, wearing their uniforms from their police or fire departments and, after the opening ceremonies, the games begin. And in 2011, on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, this city will have the attention of the whole world as these games are staged."

Perfect.

The Jan. 11 WPFG 2011 fund-raiser at the Javits Center will honor Willie Randolph and Mariano Rivera. Tickets are $500.

"We're getting some corporate sponsorship," says Carney. "And lots of in-kind help from state and city government and from various sports organizations. But we're clearly looking for a generous philanthropist, or a few angels, to sponsor these games."

The first responders who always come to the rescue now need our help.

For tickets to the fund-raiser, call (646) 291-6657, ext. 123, or visit www.2011wpfg.org. Send contributions to WPFG, 45-56 171 Pl., Flushing, NY 11358.


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