Special Olympics athlete Lamarcus Briggs (wearing 26 on his jersey) stands with law enforcement runners who carried the “Flame of Hope” into Santa Barbara on its way to Saturday’s opening of the World Games in Los Angeles.
John Zant

The 2015 Special Olympics World Games will get underway Saturday evening at the Los Angeles Coliseum. More than 6,500 athletes from 165 countries will participate in L.A.’s biggest sporting event since the 1984 Summer Olympics.

Santa Barbara was one of the final stops of the Law Enforcement Torch Run that is delivering the “Flame of Hope” from its source in Athens, Greece, to the host city of the World Games. Along the way, the torch run has been a major fundraiser. A delegation of runners from agencies as far away as Cyprus and Australia was welcomed by city and county dignitaries at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse last Friday.

Lamarcus Briggs, a 33-year-old Special Olympics athlete from Santa Barbara, mixed with the runners upon their arrival. Briggs will participate in the World Games as a member of the U.S. softball team, based in Santa Maria.

“I play third base,” said Briggs, who also takes part in basketball and track during year-round Special Olympics activities in his hometown. “I run the 100 meters and 200 meters.” He put that speed to use by stealing a base. “Did I make it? Yeah,” he said. “I barely made it, but I made it.”

Santa Barbara is a “host town” this week to 100 athletes and coaches from four countries — Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and St. Kitts and Nevis — for four days of training and sightseeing before they migrate to L.A. Other host towns include Solvang (the Danish team) and Santa Maria (France, Mauritius, and the Republic of Congo).

The Special Olympics, founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, staged the World Games four times in eight years before a four-year cycle began in 1975. The L.A. Games will be the 14th and the first staged in the U.S. since 1999.

The opening ceremonies (televised at 6 p.m. Saturday, July 25, on ESPN), featuring celebrity performers and First Lady Michelle Obama, are the only ticketed event of the World Games. Admission is free to the competitions from July 26 to August 2. Sites include the Long Beach waterfront, USC, UCLA, and the L.A. Convention Center. Visit la2015.org.


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