LOS ANGELES - The Special Olympics are under way in Los Angeles, California, with athletes from 165 countries taking part in an event that gives people with intellectual disabilities the chance to participate in an international competition.  For athletes and their families, it's also an opportunity to make new friends in an international setting.

6,500 athletes are competing in 25 sports, and many competitors are at the top their game.  An athlete's mother from Ireland is impressed.

“I can only say it's a privilege to be here. They're amazing games. They're going really well. Things are really good," she said.

Another mother, Hane Dindinno from Papua New Guinea says her nation's six Special Olympics athletes are thrilled to be here.

“A new place, new experience, new challenges.  And very good," said Dindinno.

The Special Olympics offer exposure to new cultures - and entertainment.  

A team member from Iran drums out a tune on the face of a bass fiddle while a Mexican musician strums the instrument.

Also, athletes receive medical screening, including physical therapy, through the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes program.

Dr. Levi Harrison, medical director for Healthy Athletes LA 2015, says volunteer doctors, dentists, optometrists and others provide the care.

“Getting them glasses, shoes, eye care, proper hearing aids.  It's all about getting them the stepping stone to greater self-empowerment," said Harrison.

Competitions take place at venues around Los Angeles, including the University of Southern California.  Taiwan team coach Yunda Xie says his athletes are competing under the name Chinese Taipei in sports that include bocce, badminton and basketball.

He says he and his athletes are honored to be involved with the Special Olympics.  

The games will continue through Sunday, as the athletes show their competitive skills and make new friends from other countries.