Sporting events and competitions have always held a special place in people’s hearts. One of the most heart-warming, inspiring, and downright motivational sectors within sports and the Olympic world is no doubt the establishment of the Special Olympics.
The coming of this platform not only paved the way for children and adults with intellectual disabilities to participate in sports training and in athletic competitions around the globe but also afforded these individuals with opportunities for success, access to a community, as well as holistic growth.
Despite five decades of existence, there is little to no buzz surrounding this organization. To know more about this organization, the platform they uphold, and the events held in this Olympic sector, take a look at this article.
What’s Special About the Special Olympics
The goal of the Special Olympics is to provide an avenue for individuals with intellectual disabilities, including both children and adults, to get sports training and participate in athletic sporting competitions all year round.
This organization allows individuals access to continued growth and other opportunities to improve their physical abilities and fitness, as well as boost their courage in the field.
For approximately five decades, this has provided special athletes with the space to foster friendship, talent, and community.
More than providing people with intellectual disabilities the avenue to play sports and hone their skills, the goal of the Special Olympics is to impart these individuals with fair access to opportunities and make them more productive and respected members of society.
In addition, another main goal of the organization is to use its platform as a tool for transforming not just the lives of individuals and participants but to serve as an active platform in fighting against injustices, social isolation, discrimination, and other challenges of its athletes today.
To date, this is considered as one of the most highly regarded sporting programs not just in the United States, but also around the globe. Over five million athletes benefit from this program, with over 170 countries supported by the organization.
Brief History of the Special Olympics
The Special Olympics was founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver. The organization was initially a pipe dream of Shriver, who founded the Camp Shriver in the 1960s after years of working in the government and as a social worker and who saw the injustices people with intellectual disabilities faced.
What started as an experimental camp in her own backyard in 1962 has now grown into the transformative Special Olympics movement and organization we know today.
Today, the organization is spearheaded by chief executive officer Mary Davis, with the program’s headquarters billeted in the capital of the United States, Washington, D.C. Davis reportedly leads a team of more than 200 professionals.
More than one million coaches and volunteers are recognized under the said institution, all of which are working together to achieve the goals of the Special Olympics.
Events Held During the Special Olympics
Unlike other Olympic programs, the Special Olympics is a year-round sports program. However, Special Olympics World Games are held every two years, alternating with the Summer and Winter Games.
The first-ever Special Olympics International Summer Games was held in 1968 in Chicago, Illinois, while the first World Winter Games was conducted in Steamboat Springs, Colorado in 1977. The next Winter Games is slated to happen in Kazan, Russia in 2022 and the World Games in Berlin, Germany in 2023.
Apart from the Summer and Winter World Games, the organization also holds numerous competitions and events at the local, provincial, national, and international levels year after year. In total, the organization holds more than 100,000 Special Olympics events annually.
As one of the largest sporting organizations around the globe, this program offers more than 30 Olympic-style events, including individual and team sports.
Some of the more popular programs offered in this program include basketball, badminton, figure skating, gymnastics, judo, open water swimming, powerlifting, triathlon, and many more. Cycling, alpine skiing, track and field, kayaking, motor activity training, netball, and snowboarding are also included.
The Bottom Line
Over the years, sporting events have undoubtedly become more inclusive than ever. The Special Olympics is proof that individuals with intellectual disabilities can also make their athletic goals and dreams a reality and that they, too, can become respected and productive members of society.