Special Olympics International

Special Olympics is a global movement that unleashes the human spirit through the transformative power and joy of sport, every day around the world.

Through programming in sports, health, education and community building, Special Olympics is changing the lives of people with intellectual disabilities solving the global injustice, isolation, intolerance and inactivity they face. The Special Olympics movement has grown to more than 5.3 million athletes and Unified partners in 169 countries. With the support of more than one million coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics delivers 32 Olympic-type sports and over 108,000 competitions throughout the year.

Special Olympics provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.

The Special Olympics movement reaches:

  • 5.3 million athletes and Unified partners
  • 1 million coaches and volunteers
  • More than 108,000 competitions each year in 32 Olympic-type sports
  • Programs in 169 countries
  • Dynamic sports and corporate partnerships

Its programs include:

  • REAL SPORTS: Delivering, high-quality training and competition in an inclusive culture that stresses athletic excellence, rewards determination, emphasizes health and celebrates personal achievement.
  • ATHLETE HEALTH: Promoting the overall well-being of people with intellectual disabilities via programs that ensure ongoing access to quality, community-based healthcare services, highlighted by free health screenings at Special Olympics’ competitions, games and other venues.
  • TRANSFORMATIVE EDUCATION: Equipping young people and adult influencers with effective tools and training to create sports, classroom and community actions that produce friendships and acceptance, driving positive attitude and behavioral change.
  • BUILD COMMUNITIES: Marshalling resources, implementing diverse programming and acting as a convening power of stakeholders to drive positive attitudinal and behavioral change toward people with intellectual disabilities in communities worldwide, strengthening the fabric of society.
You are the stars and the world is watching you. By your presence, you send a message to every village, every city, every nation. A message of hope. A message of victory.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver and the Birth of a Movement


In 1962, Eunice Kennedy Shriver begin a series of summer camps for people with intellectual disabilities in her own backyard in suburban Washington, DC. Mrs. Shriver, an advocate for people with intellectual disabilities and a strong believer in their potential for leading fuller lives and participating in their communities, quickly began to expand her initiative. In 1968, the first Special Olympics games were held at Soldier Field in Chicago, with 400 athletes competing in more than 50 events. To learn more about how her vision led to one of the world’s greatest social revolutions, click here.

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