Let the games begin.

No, not those games. The other ones - the Goodwill games, touted as the alternative to the Olympic experience, offering money, as well as gold medals, to winners.Revelry, fireworks and songs opened the games' 15 days of multi-sport competition that have generated little interest in the New York area, where the Yankees, the Mets, Marv Albert and even off-season hockey deals have dominated the news.

More than 1,300 athletes from 60 countries, representing sports like swimming, gymnastics and ice skating (yes, even in the summer), are expected to compete in the games.

And the entertainment was as mixed as the competition with teen singing-sensation Brandy, gospel singers BeBe and CeCe Winans, pop stars Hootie and the Blowish and Ray Charles, the grandfather of rhythm and blues.

The Goodwill games were founded by Ted Turner as an olive branch offering to athletes after the Olympic boycotts in 1980 and 1984 by the United States and the Soviet Union, respectively.

Some of the proceeds will go to The Boys & Girls Clubs of America to develop programs and activities for youngsters.

Vice President Al Gore got into the act, taping a message to the athletes to be played at the opening ceremonies during a Saturday morning visit to The Children's Aid Society Boys & Girls Club in Harlem.

Gore refereed a relay race along with Olympic gold medal hurdler Allen Johnson and former NCAA half-mile champion Joetta Clark, both of whom are expected to compete in the games.

The vice president even managed to shoot hoops with teen-agers, drawing cheers from the crowds when he sunk two consecutive 3-point shots.

But the real competition starts today, with big names like Olympic champs Michael Johnson, Alexander Popov, Dan O'Brien and Jackie Joyner-Kersee on hand.

Ticket sales have not been impressive, with less than a third of the 600,000 available sold by the end of last week. The Games are spread out at various venues in New York City and Long Island.