PI ready to welcome European biathletes

Posted Jan. 28, 2011, at 10:34 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 12:43 a.m.

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Athletes taking part in the World Cup Biathlon will begin arriving Monday evening at Northern Maine Regional Airport in Presque Isle, and the airport’s director said Friday the facility is ready for their arrival.

Scott Wardwell said that two 737 airplanes, one with athletes from several countries and the other carrying members of the Russian team, will arrive after 9 p.m. Monday from Logan International Airport in Boston.

The flights will carry approximately 170 passengers each and will be the largest passenger aircraft to land at the airport in several years.

The first of two International Biathlon Union World Cup events will be held beginning Feb. 4, at the Nordic Heritage Center in Presque Isle, followed by the second competition starting on Feb. 10, in Fort Kent.

There will be about 700 Europeans in Aroostook County for two weeks for the events, including 250 athletes from 30 countries, their coaches and support staffs, spectators and foreign media. The Presque Isle competition is expected to draw at least 15,000 spectators.

Wardwell said there would be additional Transportation Security Administration screeners on hand to deal with the influx of passengers.

“We’ve been planning this for a while, and we are equipped to deal with it,” Wardwell said. “We expect to easily get the athletes through the airport and then onto their charter buses so they can head off to prepare for the event.”

A short distance away at the University of Maine at Presque Isle, faculty, staff and students are preparing to help out with the event.

A number of campus facilities will be used for activities. The university’s Campus Center will serve as home base for anyone who needs official accreditation, including all athletes, coaches, volunteers and media. Individuals can visit the Campus Center from noon to 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 30, and from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 31, to register and pick up official identification badges.

The university’s wellness center, Gentile Hall, will be the site for the opening ceremonies at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 3. The ceremonies will include a parade of athletes, entertainment by the Caribou and Presque Isle high school bands, performances by Maine Dance Academy students, a video production about the biathlon, and the presentation of race bibs. Tickets for the opening ceremonies are $5 and can be purchased at UMPI’s bookstore.

More than 30 students and several staff members with the Athletic Training Education Program will assist with medical staffing during the event. The program is being coordinated by program director Barbara Blackstone and clinical coordinator Deena Albert Parks, who also is serving as a doping control coordinator during the competition. Professor Sue Beaudet and several physical education students and UMPI alumni will serve on the ski patrol and assist with medical staffing. About 20 criminal justice students will volunteer as security officers.

Members of the campus community are volunteering for tasks ranging from scoring and shooting support during the competitions to transportation and food service.

Greg Doak, UMPI’s bookstore manager, is heading the PayPal ticket processing efforts for the World Cup No. 7 and the World Cup No. 8 event, which is being held in Fort Kent. Doak and Jen Flynn of Husson University have been tracking online ticket sales for the Presque Isle and Fort Kent venues. They plan to staff ticket booths as well as coordinate the volunteer effort for those pickup locations.

Mary Lawrence, UMPI’s coordinator of conferences and special programs, is serving on the organizing committee as coordinator of volunteers. There are now more than 500 volunteers in the committee’s database, but more are needed. According to Lawrence, if you are interested in serving as a volunteer, there is still time to sign up at www.biathlon-presqueisle.org.

“We are so pleased to be participating in a multitude of ways with the World Cup Biathlon event that is coming to Presque Isle, and to be helping to ensure that the local community and northern Maine region are providing a friendly and welcoming experience to the hundreds of athletes, coaches and spectators who will be vis-iting,” UMPI President Don Zillman said. “This is a wonderful opportunity to share our region with biathlon enthusiasts from around the world, and we are confident that they will be impressed with what they find.”

Back at the airport, Wardwell said no official celebration is planned to welcome the first flights of athletes to town, but well-wishers will have access to the main terminal lobby to greet them.

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