Star-studded Special Olympics kick off in California
Thousands of athletes from around the world will participate in the weeklong event.
Los Angeles is experiencing a bit of déjà vu this week. One of the largest sporting events since that city's 1984 Olympics is taking place this week.
The Special Olympics World Games has arrived in the City of Angels. Participating in the event are 6,500 athletes and 2,000 coaches from 165 countries.
Young athletes experience the thrill of participating in softball activities on a worldwide stage through the Toys R Us #MyFirstSportsMoments initiative at the Special Olympics in Los Angeles. (Photo: Jason Kempin/Getty Images)
At the opening ceremonies on Saturday night, 30-year-old pop star Avril Lavigne debuted her inspirational new song "Fly." It was the first public performance the Canadian singer made in more than a year due to her extended battle with Lyme disease. "This was a beautiful night for me," the singer wrote on her Instagram account afterwards. "I wrote this song to encourage people who are facing challenges, to encourage strength and to empower."
As Lavigne sang, various athletes from countries such as the United States, Israel and Mongolia carried the Olympic torch. You can see them all in the video below.
Fellow Canadian pop star Justin Bieber was also on hand at the opening ceremony. Other stars who came onstage included Eva Longoria, Nicole Scherzinger and Stevie Wonder, as well as Maria Shriver, whose mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founded the Special Olympics in 1968. The organization offers year-round training and competition in 32 Olympic-style summer and winter sports.
Sports at this year's games include the expected (track and field, basketball, tennis) and the unexpected (bocce and 12 different roller skating events.) Sunday saw the triathlon and events in gymnastics, soccer, table tennis and bowling among others.
The games may only be a little more than a day old, but some medals have already been handed out – including a bronze to 20-year-old Tamir Rosenzwaig of Israel, seen below celebrating with his mom.
The games, which are being broadcast on ESPN, conclude next Sunday, Aug. 2. The next Special Olympics, its winter edition, will be held March 14-25, 2017, in Austria.
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