Anniversary of First Special Olympics Celebrates Legacy of Recent World Games in Greece

July 20, 2011

For Immediate Release

Special Olympics World Winter Games to be held in PyeongChang, Korea 2013 & World Summer Games 2015 Host To Be Announced in September

Washington D.C. - Today, on the anniversary of the first-ever Special Olympics that were held 20 July 1968 at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois (USA), Special Olympics reflects on the legacy of the Special Olympics Summer World Games ATHENS 2011.  These World Games included 10 days of competition from 25 June – 4 July with nearly 7000 athletes from 168 countries.  Together, the athletes of Special Olympics demonstrated they are the best in sport through competitions in 22 Olympic-type sports and by earning more than 12,000 medals.

Amidst domestic unrest and economic hardship, the people of Greece embodied the Olympic ideals, proclaiming to the world that crisis would not drive them to isolation, but rather to welcome with open arms Special Olympics athletes who brought courage, joy, pride and inspiration to Greece during a much-needed time.

Joanna Despotopoulou, President of the ATHENS 2011 Games Organizing Committee, reflecting on the positive impact of the World Games on Greece said, “The benefits for Greece were multiple: some 300,000 overnight stays in Greece, thousands of sea and air travels and increased tourist traffic. Athletes and coaches had a wonderful experience in our country. But most importantly, it opened the debate on rights and the untapped potential of people with intellectual disabilities.”

Now, two weeks after the conclusion of Special Olympics World Summer Games ATHENS 2011 Special Olympics celebrates the faces, events, historic moments, triumphs, and stories of the largest multi-sport event in 2011. Every day odds were defied, victories were won, personal bests were achieved, and athletes from more than 170 countries showed the world what it means to play unified, and live unified. 

This year was the first year Israeli Arabs represented the country in the World Games, playing alongside their Jewish teammates.  Romanian athlete, Anca Chirita’s overcame odds in her heroic journey of living in an institution to winning the Gold in Bocce.  The Healthy Athletes program through medical screenings, the donation of hearing aids and glasses, and visits with dentists helped hundreds of athletes who are underserved in most countries. 

As Timothy P. Shriver, Special Olympics Chairman and CEO said, “The examples go on and on, but one thing is clear: as our athletes continue to spread the spirit of unity beyond the borders of Greece, we have an opportunity to join them.  We can play unified with them, and we can live unified thanks to them.”

World Games by the numbers:

• Nearly 7,000 athletes from 168 countries
• 2,500 coaches
• 2,600 officials
• 22 Olympic-type sports
• 30 sports venues
• 146 torchbearers carrying the Flame of Hope to 146 cities
• 35,000 nights at 215 Greek hotels
• 32 geographical areas across Greece, which hosted athletes for 4 days before the Games
• 3,751 athletes were examined by physicians in 8 specialties through Healthy Athletes programs
• 25,000 volunteers
• Nearly 1000 accredited journalists from around the world

Special Olympics World Summer Games ATHENS 2011 concluded competition with the Closing Ceremony on 4 July at the historic Kallimarmaron Panthinaikon Olympic Stadium in a celebration of Special Olympics athletes, families and fans, as well as the thousands of volunteers who made the Games possible.  During the ceremony, the Special Olympics World Games flag was transferred over to the Games Organizing Committee for the 2013 World Winter Games in PyeongChang, Korea.

While the flag has been passed on to the Games Organizing Committee for the 2013 World Winter Games in PyeongChang, Korea, plans for Special Olympics 2015 Summer World Games are also underway.  The host of the 2015 World Games will be announced in mid-September as a decision is made by Special Olympics between the two current finalists of South Africa and Los Angeles, California.  

About Special Olympics
Special Olympics is an international organization that changes lives through the power of sport by encouraging and empowering people with intellectual disabilities, promoting acceptance for all, and fostering communities of understanding and respect worldwide. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown from a few hundred athletes to more than 3.7 million athletes in over 170 countries in all regions of the world, providing year-round sports training, athletic competition and other related programs. Special Olympics now takes place every day, changing the lives of people with intellectual disabilities c all over the world to community playgrounds and ball fields in every small neighborhood’s backyard. Special Olympics provides people with intellectual disabilities continuing opportunities to realize their potential, develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, and experience joy and friendship. Visit Special Olympics at www.specialolympics.org. Engage with us on: Twitter @specialolympics; fb.com/specialolympics; youtube.com/specialolympicshq, and specialolympicsblog.wordpress.com.

Special Olympics World Summer Games Athens 2011 website:  www.athens2011.org

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CONTACT:
Mandy Murphy       
mamurphy@specialolympics.org     
+1-202-824-0227        

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