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What is Special Olympics?

Special Olympics is an international organization that changes lives by promoting understanding, acceptance and inclusion between people with and without intellectual disabilities. When Eunice Kennedy Shriver founded Special Olympics in 1968 she took a rebellious stand against the injustices faced by people with intellectual disabilities. No longer would the world turn its back on the most vulnerable among us. Her solution was simple: give people with intellectual disabilities a chance to demonstrate their abilities, determination and value through sport. She faced seemingly insurmountable obstacles and yet never wavered in her steadfast belief that every person deserves to be treated with respect and have an opportunity to be included. Fifty years later, Special Olympics has grown from a summer camp held in Mrs. Shriver's backyard to a global movement reaching more than 5 million individuals with intellectual disabilities in 170 countries. Special Olympics has created a model community that celebrates people's diverse gifts. There is no cost to participate in Special Olympics.

How many people does Special Olympics serve?

Special Olympics serves more than 5 million persons with intellectual disabilities in 170 countries.

What is the Special Olympics Athlete Oath?

"Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."

What is Special Olympics' mission?

To provide 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.

What impact does Special Olympics have on athletes?

Children and adults with intellectual disabilities who participate in Special Olympics develop improved physical fitness and motor skills, greater self-confidence and a more positive self-image. They grow mentally, socially and spiritually and, through their activities, exhibit boundless courage and enthusiasm, enjoy the rewards of friendship and ultimately discover not only new abilities and talents but "their voices" as well.

Who is eligible to participate in Special Olympics?

To be eligible to participate in Special Olympics, you must be at least 8 years old and identified by an agency or professional as having one of the following conditions: intellectual disabilities, cognitive delays as measured by formal assessment, or significant learning or vocational problems due to cognitive delay that require or have required specially designed instruction. It does not cost anything to participate.

Can individuals with profound disabilities participate in Special Olympics?

Yes, through Special Olympics Motor Activities Training Program (MATP), developed by physical educators, physical therapists and recreation therapists. MATP emphasizes training and participation rather than competition.

When are Special Olympics World Games held?

The Special Olympics World Summer Games are held every four years; the 2003 World Summer Games were held in Dublin, Ireland, on 20-29 June; the 2007 World Summer Games will be held in Shanghai, China. The 2011 Summer Games were held in Greece. The 2015 Summer Games were held in Los Angeles. The Special Olympics World Winter Games also are held every four years; the 2005 World Winter Games were held in Nagano, Japan, on 26 February–5 March. The 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games were held in Idaho. The 2013 Winter Games were held in S. Korea. The 2017 World Winter Games were held in Austria. The first Special Olympics World Games was held in Chicago, Illinois USA, in 1968.

Are there differences between Special Olympics and Paralympics?

Yes, Special Olympics and the Paralympics are two separate and distinct organizations with specific eligibility requirements.

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"Special Olympics has taught me that life is an adventure - bring it on!"

- Wendy Newsom, Boise Athlete   


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