World Firefighters Games open in Chungju

A major international sporting event for firefighters has opened with great fanfare in the central city of Chungju, bringing together more than 6,000 firefighters from across the globe.

Often called "the mini-Olympics for firefighters," the 2018 World Firefighters Games (WFG), which kicked off Sunday with an opening ceremony, is slated to run till Sept. 18 in Chungju, 150 kilometers southeast of Seoul, and six neighboring towns -- Cheongju, Eumseong, Goesan, Danyang, Jecheon and Jincheon.

About 6,700 full-time, volunteer, industrial and military fire service personnel and their families from 64 countries worldwide are participating in the 13th edition of the biennial WFG.

A series of performances, including an Air Force aerobatics show, was held before the official opening ceremony at the Chungju Sports Complex, which was attended by such dignitaries as Interior Minister Kim Boo-kyum and North Chungcheong Province Gov. Lee Si-jong.

The pre-opening gala also included a muster game, in which participants attired in clothes of their own countries put on a performance. It is also an official event, whose winners will be determined by creativeness, spectators' response and expressiveness.

The muster game was followed by the joint performance of a traditional Korean music orchestra and a demonstration team of taekkyeon, a traditional Korean martial art, drawing applause from spectators.

The official opening ceremony featured a performance on firefighters, who put the safety and lives of the public before anything else, before ending with a show by singers and a colorful fireworks display, according to the organizers.

"A special festival started, giving firefighters from across the world an opportunity to become one beyond their countries and races," Gov. Lee said in an opening speech, calling for citizens' interest in and support for the games.

The largest-ever WFG involves 75 individual and team sporting events, including rugby, shooting and swimming. Some events have been prepared for firefighters' family members.

The governing body of the games, based in Perth, Australia, signed a deal in May last year with the government of North Chungcheong Province, to which Chungju belongs, on hosting the competition. The inaugural WFG was held in New Zealand in 1990. In 2010, the South Korean city of Daegu hosted the event.

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