Many Special Olympics competitors on their way to Southern California venues for the competition arrived late at Loyola Marymount University, forcing them to sleep on the floor of the gymnasium Tuesday night.
Special Olympics spokesman Rich Perelman said that around 1,500 athletes and coaches had flooded LMU’s welcome center Tuesday night because of delayed international flights and construction near LAX. He asserted, “Everyone was very happy when breakfast arrived at 6:30 a.m. That was the highlight.”
Thousands more of the 6,500 athletes and their coaches and delegates from around the world were scheduled to arrive later in the week. 165 countries are represented by athletes ages 8-71 at the Special Olympics; the athletes will compete at 25 venues in Los Angeles.
Airport police Officer Rob Pedregon told Southern California Public Radio that despite the delay, the arrival process remained orderly. He said the athletes simply played board games, making friends, participating in sing-alongs. They even formed a conga line.
The Red Cross, alerted to the problem around 1 a.m. Wednesday morning by the L.A. Emergency Management Department, stepped in Tuesday night, according to Phyllis Cohn, director of communications for the Los Angeles region of the American Red Cross. She said 1,200 blankets, 3,000 bottles of water, and numerous snacks were delivered to the beleaguered athletes. Cohn stated that the Special Olympics has not called on the American Red Cross elsewhere.
The athletes will stay in host cities ranging from San Diego to San Luis Obispo until the Games began on Saturday in Los Angeles.
The Los Angeles Times reported that roughly half a million people are expected to watch the Special Olympics, which are expected to stimulate $387 million in spending, including $25 million in state and local taxes.
Photo: File (UK)