JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – More than 200 local athletes competed Wednesday in the Area 3 Special Olympics, but first, an annual ceremony had to be observed.

The Johnson City Police Department (JCPD) kicked off the event by participating in the Torch Run.

“Officers are known as the guardian of the flame, which is why we carry in the torch, that’s the symbolism behind the whole thing,” said Brittney Eberhart of the JCPD.

The games began inside Kermit Tipton Stadium at Science Hill High School. The athletes from Johnson, Carter, Unicoi and Washington counties numbered 220.

“We have our Special Olympics track events so they are going to be running, walking, assisted walking, we have some wheelchair races and then long jump, softball throws today,” said Special Olympics Tennessee manager Brenna Soriano.

The games are only made possible with the help of hundreds of volunteers.

“I did compete for several years, but now I’m going to be volunteering as a former athlete,” said Jeremy Marlor.

To learn more about getting involved in Tennessee’s Special Olympics, click here.