A 41-person relay team bearing a torch lit 6,900 miles away in Athens, Greece, made its way across a mile of Laguna Beach on Monday.
The runners – four athletes and 37 law enforcement personnel drawn from points across the globe — received a warm reception from Mayor Bob Whalen and police Chief Laura Farinella on the lawn of City Hall.
Relay teams have held the flame aloft for 46 days since it arrived on the east coast after departing from Greece, said Tory Rivers, a spokeswoman for the Law Enforcement Torch Run Final Leg relay for the Special Olympics World Games.
The relay teams set out in California on July 10 and are now hop-scotching across the state en route to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, where the games are set to open on Saturday. More than 7,000 athletes from 177 countries are expected at the stadium, which also hosted summer Olympics in 1932 and 1984.
Relay team members also hail from afar, including New Zealand and France, their participation partly underwritten by the Special Olympics but mostly supported by their home agencies, said Joanne Wild, a sergeant with the Vancouver police, running in her 20th Special Olympic torch run. After taking a breather in Laguna, the team would go on to complete three more runs that day in Newport, Huntington and Seal Beach.
Law enforcement, which has raised $500 million since 1981 for the cause, is the Special Olympic’s largest grassroots funder, Rivers said.
Wild said the torch run fans awareness about the games, which will feature competitions in aquatics, gymnastics, track and field, basketball, football (soccer) and many other summer sports by athletes with intellectual disabilities.