Special Olympics World Games

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Special Olympics World Games
2003 Special Olympics Opening Crowd.JPG
The crowd at the Special Olympics World Games Opening Ceremonies in Croke Park, Dublin, Ireland, 2003
GenreSporting event
FrequencyEvery two years
Inaugurated1968 (1968) (summer)
1977 (1977) (winter)
The mascot for the Shanghai 2007 Special Olympics, displayed in Pudong in front of the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum.

The Special Olympics World Games are an international sporting competition for athletes with intellectual disabilities, organized by the IOC-recognised Special Olympics organisation.


Although local Special Olympics events and competitions are held around the world every day, the World Games are flagship events. The goal is to showcase the skills and accomplishments of people with intellectual disabilities on a global stage.[1] The World Games feature more than a week of competitions involving thousands of athletes. Through media coverage of the Games, the stories and achievements of children and adults with intellectual disabilities are made known to millions of people worldwide.[1]

Special Olympics World Games take place every two years and alternate between Summer and Winter Games, a schedule similar to the Olympics and Paralympics. Attracting as many as 350,000 volunteers and coaches, plus several thousands of athletes, these World Games can be the world's largest sporting event of the year.[1][2]

Special Olympics athletes can compete in 32 Olympic-style summer or winter sports. The athletes are adults and children with intellectual disabilities who can range from gifted, world-class competitors to average athletes to those with limited physical ability. It's a fundamental rule of Special Olympics competitions that athletes are matched up according to their ability and age. This “divisioning” process is an effort to make every competition fair, competitive and exciting for athletes as well as fans.[3]


The first International Special Olympics Summer Games were held in Chicago, Illinois, US, in 1968, while the first International Special Olympics Winter Games were held in February 1977 in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, US. In 1991, the name was officially changed from International Special Olympics Summer/Winter Games to Special Olympics World Summer/Winter Games.[4]

In 2011, Special Olympics World Summer Games were held on June 25 – July 4 in Athens, Greece, involving 6,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities from 170 countries.[2]

IN 2013, the Special Olympics World Winter Games were held in PyeongChang, South Korea from Jan. 29 – Feb. 5.The Host Town program, in which families host Special Olympics athletes from around the world t 13.[5]

The most recent 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games were held in Los Angeles, California from July 25 – Aug. 2, 2015.[6] These games were the first Special Olympics World Summer Games held in the United States in 16 years since the 1999 Summer Games held in Raleigh, North Carolina.

The most recent World Winter Games were the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Graz and Schladming in Styria, Austria. This marked a return: Salzburg and Schladming, Austria hosted the fifth Special Olympics World Winter Games in 1993. These were the first Special Olympics World Games held outside the United States. The 2017 World Winter Games were held on March 14-25, 2017. [7]

The next Special Olympics World Summer Games will be held March 14-21, 2019 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. These will be the first Special Olympics World Games to be held in the Middle East/North Africa region.[8] Competitions will be held in 24 sports.

Åre and Östersund, Sweden will host the next World Winter Games in 2021. It will mark the first time that Sweden have ever hosted the Special Olympics.[9]

While Berlin, Germany will host 2023 edition of the World Summer Games. It will mark the first time that Germany have ever hosted the Special Olympics.[10]


Special Olympics World Games hosts
Year Summer Special Olympics World Games Winter Special Olympics World Games
No. Host Date(s) No. Host Date(s)
1968 1 United States Chicago, United States July 20 – August 3
1970 2 United States Chicago, United States August 13 – 15
1972 3 United States Los Angeles, United States August 13 – 18
1975 4 United States Mount Pleasant, United States August 8 – 13
1977 1 United States Steamboat Springs, United States February 5 – 11
1979 5 United States Brockport, United States August 8 – 13
1981 2 United States Smugglers' Notch and Stowe, United States March 8 – 13
1983 6 United States Baton Rouge, United States July 12 – 18
1985 3 United States Park City, United States March 24 – 29
1987 7 United States Notre Dame and South Bend, United States July 31 – August 1
1989 4 United States Lake Tahoe and Reno, United States April 1 – 8
1991 8 United States Minneapolis and Saint Paul, United States July 19 – 27
1993 5 Austria Salzburg and Schladming, Austria March 20 – 27
1995 9 United States New Haven, United States July 1 – 9
1997 6 Canada Collingwood and Toronto, Canada February 1 – 8
1999 10 United States Chapel Hill, Durham and Raleigh, United States June 26 – July 4
2001 7 United States Anchorage, United States March 4 – 11
2003 11 Republic of Ireland Dublin, Ireland June 21 – 29
2005 8 Japan Nagano, Japan February 26 – March 4
2007 12 China Shanghai, China October 2 – 11
2009 9 United States Boise, United States(1) February 6 – 13
2011 13 Greece Athens, Greece June 25 – July 4
2013 10 South Korea Pyeongchang, South Korea January 29 – February 5
2015 14 United States Los Angeles, United States July 25 – August 2
2017 11 Austria Graz and Schladming, Austria March 14 – 25
2019 15 United Arab Emirates Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates March 14 – 21
2021 12 Sweden Östersund and Åre, Sweden TBD
2023 16 Germany Berlin, Germany TBD
1 Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, was originally selected to host the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games.[11] The city, however, later decided to withdraw from hosting, and Boise, Idaho, was selected to host the event instead.[12]

Official Summer Sports[edit]

See footnote[13]

Official Winter Sports[edit]

See footnote[13]

Recognized Sports[edit]

Demonstration Sports[edit]

  • Stick Shooting

Regional games[edit]

Asia Pacific Games[edit]

In 2013, Australia hosted the first ever Special Olympics Asia Pacific Games.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Special Olympics: World Games Overview". specialolympics.org.
  2. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-02-23. Retrieved 2012-09-03.
  3. ^ "Special Olympics: About Competitions Results Schedules". specialolympics.org.
  4. ^ "Special Olympics: History of Special Olympics". specialolympics.org.
  5. ^ "Welcome World Winter Games PyeongChang 2013". 2013sopoc.org. Archived from the original on 2012-08-17. Retrieved 2012-08-16.
  6. ^ "Special Olympics World Summer Games – Los Angeles 2015". La2015.org. Archived from the original on 2015-07-08. Retrieved 2012-08-16.
  7. ^ Austria to host 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games. October 12, 2012. Special Olympics official website. Retrieved 2014-06-21.
  8. ^ http://www.abudhabi2019.org/
  9. ^ "Sweden selected to host the 2021 Special Olympics World Winter Games". Special Olympics.
  10. ^ "Berlin, Germany selected to host the 2023 Special Olympics World Games". Special Olympics.
  11. ^ "2009 Special Olympics To Take Place In Sarajevo, Bosnia And Herzegovina". GamesBid.com. Retrieved 25 July 2015.
  12. ^ McLaughlin, Micah (June 14, 2006). "Special Olympics come to Idaho in 2009". The Arbiter. The Arbiter. Retrieved 25 July 2015.
  13. ^ a b Sports & Games. Special Olympics official website. Retrieved 2014-06-21.
  14. ^ Asia Pacific Games / Newcastle 2013. Special Olympics official website. Retrieved 2014-06-21.

External links[edit]