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Sweltering Heat at Special Olympics Concerns Organizers

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RALEIGH — The heat and humidity took a toll on runners at theSpecial Olympicstrack venue Saturday. More than a dozen athletes were overcome by the temperature during the afternoon competition. The heat index hovered around 100 degrees. World Games officials are doing everything they can to protect both athletes and spectators from the heat.

Medics helped many athletes off the track, doused them with sponges and spray bottles, and offered cups of water.

Runners will compete in the marathon Sunday morning. Organizers of the grueling 26-mile race say the sweltering heat is their number one concern. There will be water stations at every mile on the marathon course. Ten of the 24 marathoners decided to run the half-marathon because of the heat.

"We are going to monitor them closely," marathon organizer Butch Robertson said. "We have time schedules set up and, if they do not meet those time schedules, we will pull them off."

Organizers are also taking precautions against the heat at Wallace Wade Stadium, the site of Sunday's closing ceremonies. Athletes can retreat to air conditioned tents, cool off in front of fans, or soak under a spray arch. In addition, organizers will give out bottled water.

"This community of athletes has a lot of physical challenges and a lot of things that have the medical community rightly concerned," Will Johnson said. "We want to make sure they are hydrated and have plenty of water and ice and a place to cool down."

Memories of the sweltering heat at theopening ceremoniesare still fresh in the minds of athletes and spectators. World Games officials suggest drinking plenty of water before and during Sunday's ceremony.

"Medical professionals will tell you they recommend that you start to hydrate during the day," says Joe Freddoso, World Games CEO. "Drink 8 to 16 ounces of water an hour for maybe three or four hours before you leave for the closing ceremonies."