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The first waves of more than 2,000 athletes, coaches and team personnel arriving at Richardson International Airport Thursday for the Canada Summer Games got a warm Winnipeg hug before they got their baggage.

They were greeted by television cameras, bright-yellow mascot Niibin and an enthusiastic cheering section as they rode the escalator down from the upper-level arrival gates.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Team Nova Scotia Mission Staff Laura Pomeroy waves the team's flag as Nova Scotia athletes arrive at Winnipeg’s Richardson International Airport.</p>


Team Nova Scotia Mission Staff Laura Pomeroy waves the team's flag as Nova Scotia athletes arrive at Winnipeg’s Richardson International Airport.

"I'm impressed people were here waiting already," said Team Alberta jumper Jamie Kolodinsky, who had been awake since 4 a.m. "I was a bit shocked by it all."

Bryson Muir, a left-fielder on Team Alberta's softball team, is in Winnipeg for the first time. He said there was a lot more fanfare and media attention than what he was expecting.

"It really got us all going, though," he said.

Joel King, 16, is playing for Team Nova Scotia's baseball team. He's never been to Winnipeg — or anywhere on the Prairies — for that matter, so he appreciated the warm welcome.

"Love the support," he said. "I'm looking forward to a good time here."

For Nate St. Romain, 18, a hurdler and relay runner on Team Ontario, the arrival was exciting, but he knows it's just a precursor for the competition to come.

"I'm excited to run against people from all across Canada," he said. "I'm just getting antsy to compete."

Another 2,000 will arrive Aug. 5, for the second half of the Games, when more athletic competitions begin.

Three days into a strike against the Winnipeg Airports Authority, members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada's Union of Transportation Employees picketed in front of the building, but as organizers had promised, there was no impact on flight schedules and people using the airport were not inconvenienced.

A Canada Summer Games spokeswoman said the city is expecting about 20,000 visitors over the course of the two-week long, 19-sport event that kicks off Friday with the opening ceremonies at Bell MTS Place. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be in attendance.

Competition begins Saturday morning at venues across the city.

The Games, which began in 1967 in Quebec City, take place every second year and alternate between winter and summer.

Some travellers who arrived when the athletes did were caught up in the excitement.

When Edmontonian Adisynne Harcus-Sherwick, 9, got to the baggage carousel after arriving from Edmonton to visit family and saw all the cameras and heard the cheers, she turned to her mom Amanda Harcus with a puzzled look on her face.

"What is going on?" Adisynne asked. "Why are all these people here? People in blue jackets, people in red jackets, people in black jackets. Mascots, cameras... What's happening?"

The pair, who've been here before but were at the airport for the first time were pleasantly surprised, although Adisynne expressed her general disdain of mascots.

"I didn't know whether this is what it's like in the airport all the time," Amanda said, laughing.


Ben Waldman

Ben Waldman

Ben Waldman covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.

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