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Friendships growing with friendly Games Ernesto Lopez | Sun, May 16 2010 01:17 PM

Mater Dei Catholic High School in EastLake is hosting the city's third annual International Friendship Games on Saturday, May 15.

The event draws young athletes, 19 years old and younger, from Chula Vista and northern Baja California for a day of competition.

Deputy Mayor Rudy Ramirez, who organizes the event, said the main reason for the games is to bring together border regions.

"The games happen to have strength of the region and form links among people," Ramirez said. "It really is a celebration of the uniqueness of the region to have international competition like this and this is because of our border region."

Some of the sports played are soccer, basketball, volleyball, softball, swimming, robotics and track and field.

Ramirez said the athletic teams come from Ensenada, Rosarito, Tecate, Mexicali and Tijuana.

In its first year, the event drew about 200 people, including spectators. Last year, there were 800 participants and 3,500 spectators.

This year, Ramirez said he is anticipating 1,400 participants. He added that teams don't pay to participate; money for the event comes from fundraising and private donations.

New to the games this year is a battle of the bands competition. Ramirez said about 20 bands are expected to participate in the battle and with the winning team taking home $500.

Ramirez also said the Friendship Games have not been affected by the recent immigration uproar in Arizona.

"In Arizona they are pitting people against each other, we are the opposite because we are bringing people together. This is the sort of thing that will help fix problems we face as a border region."

Competition begins at 8 a.m. at 1615 Mater Dei Drive. The opening ceremony starts at 11 a.m. in the school's stadium and will feature master of ceremonies Catherine Garcia from local Channel 7-39 News.

For more information on the event, call (619) 585-5717.

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