There was Sugar Ray Leonard. Spider-Man and Superman. An Army drill team. Plenty of barbecued food. And a free concert.

It didn't take long to figure most people at the opening ceremonies of the U.S. Youth Games at Gallaudet College yesterday were having a pretty good time.

Then Washington Mayor Marion Barry spoke.

Wearing a Youth Games golf cap and rolled-up red-and-white striped shirt, he spoke of several things, but of none fonder than the city and its team.

"We know you and your mayors in the other 15 cities might think you're the best," he said. "But we here in Washington, we believe that we have the greatest city of any in America."

The participants booed him almost as loudly as they cheered Leonard. And after a few plaques were given out, John Hatcher, the mayor of East Orange, N.J., admitted that he only took the microphone "to make sure {Barry} doesn't get too cocky."

Surely, Hatcher wasn't alone in his trepidation. Washington's boys basketball team has won the gold medal the last two years, and it also has several other front-running teams.

"All the teams don't like playing Washington -- and New York -- because they always win," said Matt Shook, 12, a third-year competitor from Worcester, Mass. "Washington always does good, so it's pretty true what {Barry} says. But he doesn't have to show off."

Added Worcester track team member Angie Dyer, 16, with a tinge of resentment, "When they win, they have more of a self-praising attitude."

As tennis and basketball open competition today -- the Games will last through Saturday at Gallaudet, Trinity and Catholic University -- Washington athletes seem comfortable with their reputation.

"They come out to get us, but we usually kill 'em. We beat them badly," said Washington basketball player Robert Cunningham, 15, of Archbishop Carroll. "We work harder. We don't want to take a back seat to anybody."

"Yeah, they try to sweep us out of the rankings quickly," said teammate Lorenzo Baylor, 15, of Potomac High School. Then he smiled.

But athletes from the other cities -- mostly on the East Coast -- said the opening ceremonies were enough to gain a little confidence and to get fired up. The various teams, with different colored uniforms and logos featuring the city they represented, marched around the field before the ceremonies began.

"It had me pumped when we went around yelling 'Chicago!, Chicago!' " said Ken Carson, 14, a basketball player from the Games' lone Midwestern city. "I know Chicago's gonna win. We're going to do it."

While some athletes in the smaller cities, like Charlotte, N.C., swimmer Rob Putnam, said the bigger cities such as New York, Boston and Washington don't have much of an edge, Worcester's Shook was particularly vocal the other way.

"It's scary competing against some of them," he said. "We get laughed at sometimes because we never do good. But a lot of times it helps you. If you're out in front of a race, nobody's going to push you, but if someone's in front, you may get one of your best times."

There is one thing, however, that Shook and his teammates can't stand: nobody can get their city's name right. "They always put the 'h' in and make it 'Wor-chest-er,' not 'Woost-er,' " said Todd Sturtze, 11.