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Some Special Olympics athletes forced to sleep on gym floor

By CHRISTOPHER WEBER
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Special Olympics competitors arriving in Southern California were greeted by a logistics mess that forced many to sleep on a gymnasium floor before they were finally shuttled to their host cities.

At least 1,500 athletes and coaches spent the night at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles after flights and buses arrived late on Tuesday, Special Olympics spokesman Rich Perelman said.

The Red Cross provided blankets and water. The athletes from Norway, Mexico, Venezuela, Kenya and the Cayman Islands were on their way to their host cities early Wednesday.

"Flights arrived late and buses got backed up. The process just got so elongated that the decision was made to keep them here until morning," Perelman said.

The university near Los Angeles International Airport is serving as a staging area where more than 7,000 athletes were to be routed to host cities where they will be housed.

Perelman said while some of those stranded were tired after long trips, the majority made the most of the circumstances, playing board games and making friends.

"Everyone was very happy when breakfast arrived at 6:30 a.m.," he said. "That was the highlight."

Competitors from more than 160 countries are coming to Los Angeles this week to take part in 25 sports at venues across the city.

Athletes ages 8 to 71 will compete in soccer, basketball, volleyball, tennis, track, roller skating and other sports over nine days.

First Lady Michelle Obama will open the event Saturday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, site of the 1932 and 1984 Summer Olympics.

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