Special Olympics Kick off in Rancho Bernardo

Around 400 athletes and 300 volunteers kick off the San Diego Special Olympics at the Rancho Bernardo Recreation Center Saturday.

The games provide year-round sports training and competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

“A lot of people think it’s a one-time event every four years, but we happen throughout the year in San Diego,” Regional director for Special Olympics in San Diego, Brian Richter, told NBC 7. “We’ve got 11 sports going on so there’s always something across the county that people can get involved with.”

On Saturday, the athletes competed in tennis, softball and soccer.

"So often our athletes, who are people with intellectual disabilities, tend to get left out and kind of pushed to the side,” Richter explained. “ So Special Olympics is a place that they can come, find a family, find friends, and find a place to highlight how incredible they are and find out what they can do, and we provide a place for that.

The Special Olympics provide competition for more than 5 million athletes in 172 countries.

“It really is beyond the playing field,” Richter said. “It’s about making friendships, the social networks, the self-esteem that you gain.”

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