Special Olympics teams stranded in 'visa mix-ups'


Special Olympics athletes from six countries may miss out on staying with host towns in Ireland because they will arrive late due to problems with travel arrangements.

Athletes from Ghana, Burkina Faso, Gabon, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have all been delayed because, according to a spokesman for the Games, they failed to fill in their visa forms correctly.

The team from Libya also failed to arrive in Ireland on Monday night due to visa problems. A group of 12 people from the country were due to stay in Templemore, Co Tipperary. It is believed the delay stemmed from a problem with passports and the processing of visas.

The spokesman admitted the host towns would be disappointed not to be able to welcome the athletes but added: "It's not our fault if they don't fill in their applications correctly".

He said he believed the total number of athletes involved is less than 50. Some have travelled part of the way only to find they could not board flights to Ireland.

The team from Burkina Faso is in Paris and is expected to arrive in Ireland tonight. The team from Sierra Leone is expected on Friday, although the athletes from the DRC may arrive as late as Sunday. The opening ceremony for the games takes place in Dublin on Saturday night.

A Special Olympics spokesman said the late arrival of some of the athletes meant they would probably go straight to Dublin to participate in the Games rather than travel to host towns.

The team from Burkina Faso was to stay in the host town of Bunclody, Co Wexford, while the athletes in Ghana were to travel to Castleblayney, Co Monaghan.