Irish music mogul Louis Walsh has apologised after slamming the SPECIAL Olympics as "little more than an ego trip" for its organisers.

Representatives and competitors at the games for people with learning difficulties were left stunned after reading Walsh's - who manages pop band Westlife - comments in an Irish newspaper.

Walsh told yesterday's (14JUN03) IRISH TIMES, the Special Olympics were "not the kind of thing you want to watch on TV".

But today he insisted his comments were aimed solely at public figures who use the event as a PR stunt.

He says, "It was never my intention to insult anybody, especially the tens of thousands of people that work on the Special Olympics behind the scenes.

"I would never want to hurt or insult anybody and I apologise to anyone I did hurt or insult."

Adding, "A lot of public figures use the Special Olympics as a great photo opportunity and a PR stunt for them. That is what I meant. I wasn't getting at the people involved in the Special Olympics or the actual show itself, because I think it is going to be a great show."

The games - taking place in Dublin, Ireland from 21-29 June (03) - play host to more than 7,00 athletes, 3,000 coaches and 28,000 delegates.

Irish bands U2, The Corrs and WESTLIFE are all due to perform at the opening ceremony next week (21JUN03) and Muhammad Ali, Nelson Mandela and Arnold Schwarzenegger are all expected to attend.

15/06/2003 21:27