Some 2,800 athletes from each of Iowa’s 99 counties will be taking part in the Special Olympics Iowa State Summer Games, opening later today in Ames. Joyce Allard, spokeswoman for the games, says this is the 40th annual event in Iowa for people with intellectual disabilities.

Allard says athletes, the coaches and the families will be traveling from all across Iowa to take part. Events include: aquatics, track and field, bocce, cycling, soccer, tennis and roller skating. She says the athletes train year-round for these events and it’s a thrill for them to participate in the state-level competition.

"It means so much more than just a one-time event," Allard says. "They are gaining higher self-esteem, they are able to take this experience into their everyday life and use it on their jobs, in their schools, in their communities and in their homes." The so-called Final Leg Torch Run is scheduled to begin at noon today at Nollen Plaza in downtown Des Moines.

She says it’s a "spectacular" event as the runners take off from downtown Des Moines carrying the flame, headed for Ames. Most of the events will be held on the campus of Iowa State University, with one event, roller skating, to be held in Des Moines. Opening ceremonies are tonight at 7:30 P.M. at Hilton Coliseum and the games run through Saturday. For more information, visit the Special Olympics Iowa website .