Welcome To Special Olympics International!

We are a global organization with programs in 170 countries. This site may be customized by language and geographic region.

2017 World Winter Games in Austria

The world’s largest sports and humanitarian event in 2017 will be the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Graz, Schladming, Ramsau, and Styria, Austria. The games will run from 14 to 25 March.

The Event of a Lifetime

Special Olympics has many thousands of competitions around the world every year. Our athletes train in 30-plus sports in close to 170 countries. Every two years, there's a World Games competition that shows off the best our movement has to offer. For many of our athletes, attending a World Games is the dream of a lifetime.

For almost 3,000 Special Olympics athletes, that dream will come true during the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria.

The athletes have trained in their 110 home countries. Coaches have guided their practices. Family and friends have cheered for them. 

In March 2017, they will travel to the mountains of Austria. About 1,000 coaches will come with them. Our athletes will ski, skate, snowboard, snowshoe, shoot balls and shoot pucks to see who will win the gold--and who will not. 

These World Games mark a return: In 1993, Austria hosted the very first Special Olympics World Winter Games held outside the U.S. (Learn more about how the first World Games in Austria happened.)

A lot has changed since those 1993 Games. This time, an even larger worldwide audience will get the chance to see many moments from the Games. ESPN will be broadcasting stories and events during the 2017 Games in Austria.

See the latest about the 2017 World Winter Games on the official website.

I’m Going to Austria! Check out this new video from our partners at ESPN giving a sneak preview of some of our athletes going to our upcoming World Winter Games in Austria!
The delegation from Belgium posed before marching in the Parade of Athletes at the test games in early 2016.

Key Dates

14 March: Athletes arrive in Austria
15 to 17 March: Athletes take part in Host Town 
15 to 20 March: Social Impact Summit for Youth
18 March: Opening Ceremony at Stadium Planai in Schladming
19 to 24 March: Competitions
24 March: Closing Ceremony at Merkur Arena in Graz

Official Website

For more information on the Games, visit the official website.


Press Contact

Press may contact Christy Weir of Special Olympics at +1 (202) 738-8511 or cweir@specialolympics.org

Activities Before and During the Competitions

There's a lot going on before, during and after the exciting sport competitions. All of our World Games are lively and full of activity.

Host Town
Special Olympics World Games are exciting sports events. But they are also fun. For many of the athletes from around the world, part of the fun is traveling to a new place. Some visitors from hot climates will see snow for the first time. Many will taste foods they've never had. 

The organizers of the Games in Austria will show off the beauty of their country and their people. (They've done it before. Austria was host of the 1993 Special Olympics World Winter Games.) It's done through a program called Host Town. For three days after they arrive, our athletes will live in communities throughout Austria. They will learn first-hand how welcoming Austrians can be.

Health Exams and Information

Special Olympics cares deeply about the health of our athletes. Every athlete will have the chance to get a free health exam. Health care volunteers check eyes, teeth, ears, feet and general fitness of our athletes. Athletes get advice on good foods to eat. They learn how to take care of their health. They learn when to seek a doctor for help.
It is a kind of attention many people with ID cannot get at home. Doctors in many places don't want to treat people with ID. Special Olympics trains healthcare workers in free sessions around the world. The training helps spread a message of acceptance among doctors and others in healthcare.

A Conference Focused on Changing Society

There will be a conference for young people focused on ways to make society better. Some attendees will have intellectual disabilities, and some won't. Any young person interested in making a difference in their communities can apply to go. Each will suggest a project to improve the way society treats people with ID. Adults can also apply to be conference mentors.

The conference will be held in Graz from 15 to 20 March. People who attend will meet and learn from experts and each other. They'll talk about their projects. They'll get new ideas and improve their projects. Then they'll return home to put their ideas to work.

Unified Floorball: Players with and without intellectual disabilities team up for a game in Graz, Austria. The World Games in Austria will feature Unified floor hockey, floorball, ice dancing and ice pairs.

2017 Winter Games Sports

  • Alpine Skiing
  • Cross Country Skiing
  • Figure Skating
  • Floor Hockey
  • Floorball
  • Short Track Speed Skating
  • Snowboarding
  • Snowshoeing
  • Stick Shooting

The competitions will be held in three places in Austria. Figure skating, speed skating, floorball, floor hockey and stick shooting will be held in Graz. Cross country skiing will be held in Ramsau. Alpine skiing and snowboarding will be held in Schladming.

The snowy mountain behind Stadium Planai was painted with light for the Opening Ceremony for test games in early 2016. Skiiers carried lighted torches down the mountain.

Carrying A Message of Hope in the Flame of a Torch

The Special Olympics torch is called the Flame of Hope. It represents the mission and message of Special Olympics. All of our World Games start with the lighting of a torch that has been carried on foot through the host country. 

The weeklong run is called the Law Enforcement Torch Run® Final Leg. The event is called the Final Leg because it is the last part of a journey. The flame will be lit by the rays of the sun in Greece. The flame will be kept alight till it reaches Austria. 

The Flame of Hope will be carried throughout Austria from 9 to 18 March by a team of 133 people. The team is made up of law enforcement officers, Special Olympics athletes and others from around the world. Every member was chosen for the honor. The Final Leg will pass through 45 cities, towns and communities across Austria.