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KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — Thousands of people will converge Saturday on Kadena High School for the sixth annual Kadena Special Olympics, the largest event of its kind in the Pacific theater.

More than 5,000 people, including almost 2,000 American volunteers and several hundred Japanese interpreters, will help the 880 athletes from all over Okinawa compete in 18 different events.

“We also need fans,” said Special Olympics Okinawa board member Chip Steitz. “If people want to show up, it would be great to have them cheer on the athletes.”

Five shuttle bus lines will pick up participants and spectators regularly from various parking areas, including the Schilling Community Center, Bob Hope Primary School and Amelia Earhart Primary School.

Base residents should expect some traffic congestion Saturday, organizers say.

Organizers are discouraging drivers from using Gate Five, which is reserved for athletes and distinguished visitors. It is expected to be busy especially when athletes begin arriving between 8 and 9 a.m., and again when the Olympics end at 5 p.m.

Gate One, which is still under construction, will not be open Saturday, as previously planned. Heavy rains this week have delayed the gate’s progress, a base spokesman said.

Several roads will be closed to non-event traffic during the event, including Schreiber Avenue from Gate Five to the bowling alley; Adams Avenue adjacent to the outdoor recreation building; and Beeson Street adjacent to the Officers Club.

Residents who live within the closed-off area will have access and are being notified which roads they can take, according to an 18th Security Forces Squadron spokesman.

The opening ceremonies begin at 10 a.m. with a parade of athletes and comments by U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Schieffer, Okinawa Prefectural Governor Keiichi Inamine and 18th Wing Commander Brig. Gen. Jan-Marc Jouas.

The closing ceremony is to begin at 4:30 p.m. on the main field.

Athletes will compete in 13 gold medal-eligible sports and five demonstration sports.

Notable events include the following:

Thirty-meter and 200-meter dashes take place at the main field at 11:10 a.m. and a wheelchair softball throw at the same time on the middle field.The III Marine Expeditionary Force band will play on the entertainment stage at 11:30 a.m.Floor hockey will start at 12:10 p.m. in the Kadena High School gymnasium. The Okinawa floor hockey team won the silver medal at the 2005 World Games in Nagano.The 400-meter dash and 400-meter relay will take place at 1:10 p.m. on the main field.The wheelchair 50-meter dash and the standing long jump will happen at 2:10 p.m. on the main stadium field.Every participant is to receive a medal for competing, organizers said.

“This is a phenomenal effort that represents the best of what the military and the local community can do together,” said Maj. John Chase, Kadena Special Olympics director of operations.

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