Seven thousand athletes representing 177 countries gathered to kick off the 2015 Special Olympics World Games at the Los Angeles Coliseum Saturday night, marking the largest event hosted by the city since the 1984 Summer Olympic Games.
First Lady Michelle Obama, along with a slew of other celebrities, attended Saturday's opening ceremony, which included performances by Stevie Wonder, Avril Lavigne, Cody Simpson and Nicole Scherzinger.
"It's all about doing the best that you can do, the best that you're capable of and sharing in the joy," said Bob Gladwell of the Lake Arrowhead Rotary Club. "And you spend time with the athletes here and you know you get so much more than they get."
Athletes will compete in 25 sporting events during the games, concluding on Aug. 2. More than 500,000 spectators are expected to attend the free events.
Dylan Rae of Australia is a Special Olympics bowler who isn't competing, but traveled to LA to cheer on his fellow Australians.
"It just gives Dylan an opportunity to socialize with his peers and also to be a bit independent and enjoy sports just like everybody else can," Julie Rae, Dylan's mother, said.
Coaches and competitors have been attending welcome parties around Southern California since last week. The torch, also known as the Flame of Hope, has been making its way through California and will make its final stop in LA at the opening ceremony.
NBC4 reporter Kate Larsen contributed to this story.