10 Amazing Things You Should Know About The Special Olympics

The 2015 World Summer Games was the largest sports event held in Los Angeles since the 1984 Summer Olympics. But there's so much more to the inspiring story of the Special Olympics than one flagship event held every couple of years.

  1. 1

    "Ask not what your country can do for you..."

    The year after her brother became President, Eunice Kennedy Shriver started what would grow into the Special Olympics, "the largest movement for acceptance and inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities in the history of the world".

  2. 2

    Global reach

    The Special Olympics movement now provides more than 90,000 sports events each year to 4.4 million athletes in 170 countries.

  3. 3

    A global phenomenon that began in a backyard

    The Special Olympics movement began as Camp Shriver in June 1962. Eunice Kennedy Shriver started a free day camp for kids with special needs at her own home in Maryland. She wanted to provide a place such kids could play and be physically active, and continued to run the camp at her home until 2006.

  4. 4

    What's in a name?

    The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is fiercely protective of its brand - it has made one exception in history. The Special Olympics is the only other organization authorized by the IOC to use the word 'Olympics' worldwide.

  5. 5

    Spreading the word

    From Presidents to Princesses, chart-topping musicians to NBA and NFL stars, many celebrities are part of the Special Olympics. Michael Phelps, Joe Haden, Nadia Comaneci, Nancy O'Dell, Dani Alves, Yao Ming, Lauren Alaina, Hannah Teter, and Padraig Harrington are just a few of the Global Ambassadors spreading the message of acceptance and inclusion.

  6. 6

    More than a game

    In conjunction with its widespread sports competitions, the Special Olympics has provided more than 1.6 million free health checks for children and adults. It is the world's leading public health provider for people with disabilities.

  7. 7

    Let's all play together

    More than half a million people worldwide now participate in Special Olympics Unified Sports, a newer initiative to further promote understanding, acceptance, and camaraderie. Teams consist of athletes with and without intellectual disabilities.

  8. 8

    Look how we've grown

    On July 20, 1968, during a turbulent time in the US, and only weeks after her brother Bobby was murdered, Eunice Kennedy Shriver opened the first-ever World Games at Chicago's Soldier Field, to little fanfare. 1,000 athletes from US and Canada competed in track and field and swimming. The 2015 World Games, the 24th overall, saw half a million spectators, and a global TV audience of millions, watch 6,500 athletes from 165 countries in action over nine days of competition.

  9. 9

    Hugging it out

    One inspiring Special Olympian is Tim Harris, a man with Down Syndrome who introduced the First Lady at the 2015 World Games, and was famously asked for a hug by President Obama at the White House. Harris has won more than 50 medals in athletics, volleyball, basketball, and golf, and owns his own restaurant in Albuquerque, "Tim's Place", which serves breakfast, lunch, and hugs.

  10. 10

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

    The Special Olympics aims to unlock the power of the human spirit through sports. The movement's motto was scribbled down by Eunice Kennedy Shriver on the day she opened the first-ever Games in 1968, and has come to symbolise the ideas at the heart of a global movement: acceptance, inclusion, putting aside fear, getting involved, and doing your very best.

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