AMES, IOWA — The torch has been lit and the 2022 Special Olympics Iowa Games are underway in Ames.

The Special Olympics Iowa Torch Run’s final leg began at 9:30 a.m. Thursday in Des Moines. Law enforcement officers from across the state ran with the “Flame of Hope” from the Des Moines Public Safety Building to the Iowa State campus in Ames. Law enforcement personnel handed the torch to a Special Olympics Iowa athlete who will light the Olympic Torch.

The “Flame of Hope” lighting the Olympic Torch signifies the start of the 2022 Summer Games.

The Special Olympics games were virtual in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19. John Kliegl, CEO and President of Special Olympics Iowa, said at the Torch Run the athletes are ready to be back. “The athletes are excited to be back competing, seeing friends, socializing, and showing what they can do,” he said.

The 2022 Iowa Special Olympics Games are being held Thursday through Saturday. More than 2,600 athletes and 3,000 coaches and volunteers are expected to take part.