Going above and beyond to welcome athletes!

Going above and beyond to welcome athletes!

Author: BC Winter Games/Wednesday, February 19, 2020/Categories: News, 2019 News, BC Winter Games, 2020 BC Winter Games

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For most of the athletes and coaches arriving for the 2020 Fort St. John BC Winter Games, the most convenient way into the northern BC city is by chartered air flights. 

And for most of the participants, the first person to welcome them upon their disembarkment is a petite, energetic and dedicated woman. Most will never know her name. 

Lana Neitz, the Fort St. John base manager for North Caribooo Air, started her day at 6:30 on the Wednesday when participants began arriving. By 4:30 in the afternoon, she is out on the tarmac, again, for the 11th time that day. And she will be there at her post until 11:30 at night. 

“Hello guys,” she calls out to the athletes from Kooteny arriving just before suppertime. “Welcome to Fort St. John.” She has a big smile and a friendly voice, waving hello to the athletes and coaches. 

In her regulation airline safety vest and winter coat, the athletes have no idea she has such an important job overseeing all the chartered flights coming in for the games. 

“Today, we have 16 flights,” she said. “Ordinarily we have 4 flights a day. And we are talking ten 737s, each bringing in more than a hundred people for these games.”

“We have been told this is the biggest influx of participants ever for any BC Winter Games. Most of the other locations have been far south of here, so it was possible for teams to take buses. This time, only those from Prince George are arriving by bus,” she said. Fort St. John is about 500 kilometres north of Prince George. 

Altogether, Neitz and her team are expecting about 1250 athletes and coaches. And some of the teams arriving bring more than the average airline passenger.

“We had to handle the wheelchairs separately, since those athletes rely on them to be ready to compete. Those all had to be unloaded from the airplanes, set onto the baggage trucks, then loaded on nearby buses and trucks that will take them to the dormitories where the athletes will be housed.” Neitz is enthusiastic and her eyes sparkle as she considers the challenges the special equipment posed for her ground crew.

“And then there are the skis and the guns, that the bi-athletes need. Those guns all had to be handled separately and safely,” she said, in between her constant greetings to the young athletes walking by her, passing from the airplane to the buses waiting to take them to their dorms. 

When the last athlete is off the plane and heading for the bus, Neitz smiles again. “And we will do it all in reverse when everything is finished on Sunday.”

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