Special Olympics Facts

Special Olympics Facts

Special Olympics is the world's largest sports organization for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, providing year-round training and competitions to more than 4.2 million athletes in 170 countries. Competitions are held every day, all around the world, with over 70,000 events a year. See the fact file below for more Special Olympics information.

  • Special Olympics is an international organization and competition held every two years. They alternate between Summer and Winter Games.
  • These Olympics are for people who have intellectual disabilities. There are also local, national and regional competitions in over 150 countries worldwide.
  • In June of 1962, Eunice Kennedy Shriver started a summer camp for children and adults with intellectual disabilities at her home in Maryland to explore their capabilities in a variety of sports and physical activities.
  • The 1st International Special Olympics Summer Games were held at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois, USA, on July 19 – 20, 1968. One thousand individuals with intellectual disabilities from 26 U.S. states and Canada competed in track and field and swimming.
  • Anne McGlone Burke, a physical education teacher with the Chicago Park District, began with the idea for a one-time Olympic-style athletic competition for people with special needs. She then approached Eunice Kennedy Shriver. Both women are considered to be the founders of the Special Olympics.
  • In December 1971, the U.S. Olympic Committee gave the Special Olympics official approval as one of only two organizations authorized to use the name “Olympics” in the United States.
  • Athletes from 150 countries train and participate in the Special Olympics.
  • Three million athletes participate around the world.
  • The Special Olympics motto is “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”
  • Special Olympics offers over 30 Olympic-type individual and team sports that provide meaningful training and competition opportunities for persons with intellectual disabilities.

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