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Southern California Special Olympics Games kick off this weekend

June 13, 2009 | 11:33 am

More than 1,100 athletes are competing today and Sunday in the Special Olympics Southern California’s Summer Games at Cal State Long Beach.

Celebrating its 40th anniversary, the event includes swimming, track and field, basketball, gymnastics and tennis. Winners are awarded gold, silver and bronze medals in each event.

Supporting the athletes are 300 coaches and 2,000 volunteers, including health professionals offering a variety of screenings.

A Los Angeles County deputy sheriff, repelling from a helicopter, was set to light the game’s torch. Later, attendees will feast on a 500-pound birthday cake.

“It’s huge and it’s awesome,” said Kim Pine, a Special Olympics spokeswoman. “And it’s going to feed 2,000 people.”

The event is free to the public.

-- Mike Anton