LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Special Olympics World Games will bring thousands of athletes with intellectual disabilities to Los Angeles this week to compete in more than a dozen sports. Here are some details about the event:
WHAT IS THE SPECIAL OLYMPICS?
It's an international competition held every four years and alternates between summer and winter games. This year's summer games are July 25 to Aug. 2.
WHO ARE THE ATHLETES?
People of all athletic abilities compete, and they all have an intellectual disability resulting in certain limitations in cognitive functioning and other skills. The games are open to anyone 8 or older, and each athlete must qualify through a sanctioned regional competition. This year's youngest competitor is 8-year-old Ian Wong of Macau, taking part in track and field. The oldest is 71-year-old golfer Patrick Rutherford of Ireland.
HOW DID SPECIAL OLYMPICS START?
For years, President John Kennedy's sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver held informal sports competitions in her backyard in an effort to bring joy and a sense of belonging to those with intellectual disabilities. In 1968, she took it global. The first Special Olympics World Games was held in Chicago with about 1,000 athletes from the U.S. and Canada.
HOW BIG IS THE EVENT?
The games will showcase approximately 6,500 athletes, accompanied by about 2,000 coaches. Competitors are arriving this week from every corner of the globe, including China, Australia, Afghanistan, Israel, India, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Swaziland and Switzerland, to name a few.
ARE THERE WINNERS AND LOSERS?
Competitors are divided into groups of people of similar age and ability. The top three finishers are awarded gold, silver and bronze medals, but everyone gets a participation ribbon and a chance to stand on the victory platform.
WHAT SPORTS ARE REPRESENTED?
There are 25 events, many similar to those at the traditional Olympics. They include swimming, track and field, beach volleyball, badminton, soccer, tennis and a triathlon.
WHERE ARE THE COMPETITIONS HELD?
At venues across Southern California. For example, golf and equestrian competitions will be at Los Angeles' sprawling Griffith Park, and track and field will be at the University of California, Los Angeles. ESPN also is covering the event live.
For details, see the games' website, www.la2015.org .
WHAT DOES IT COST TO ATTEND?
The opening ceremony has an admission fee, but entry to every athletic competition is free. Expect large crowds, however. More than 120,000 people have volunteered for the Fans in the Stands program and will go to events to cheer on the athletes.