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Special Olympics Mission

The power of sport to change lives is clear in the joy visible on the face of Matthias Puetz of Germany after his snowboarding performance during the 2013 World Winter Games in Korea. Photo by Diego Azubel

The mission of Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.

230 x 300 Snowshoeing in Korea

Snowshoeing gold medalist Carmen Rosa Garcia of Bolivia at the 2013 World Winter Games. Photo: Diego Azubel

46 Years of Empowerment

The Special Olympics mission remains as vital today as it did when the movement was founded in 1968. Special Olympics strives to create a better world by fostering the acceptance and inclusion of all people. 

Through the power of sports, people with intellectual disabilities discover new strengths and abilities, skills and success. Our athletes find joy, confidence and fulfillment -- on the playing field and in life. They also inspire people in their communities and elsewhere to open their hearts to a wider world of human talents and potential.

There are about 200 million people with intellectual disabilities around the world. Our goal is to reach out to every one of them – and their families as well. Special Olympics does this through a wide range of trainings, competitions, health screenings and fund-raising events. We also create opportunities for families, community members, local leaders, businesses, law enforcement, celebrities, dignitaries and others to band together to change attitudes and support athletes.


About Intellectual Disability

Special Olympics is a global movement of people who want to improve the lives of people with intellectual disabilities. But what are intellectual disabilities? Learn More

The Power to Transform Lives

The transformative power of sports to instill confidence, improve health and inspire a sense of competition is at the core of what Special Olympics does. From the detailed coaching guides we provide in many languages to the sharp-eyed officials at our international games, the focus is on real sports, real competition, real achievements.

In Special Olympics, the power and joy of sport, shifts focus to what our athletes CAN do, not what they can't. Attention to disabilities fades away. Instead, we see our athletes' talents and abilities -- and applaud them for all that they can do. And they are doing a lot -- from gymnastics to soccer to open-water swimming. With our 32 Olympic-style sports, we offer adults and children with intellectual disabilities many ways to be involved in their communities, many ways to show who they really are.  


Stories about the Power of Special Olympics


November 26, 2014 | Africa: Senegal

Special Olympics Senegal uses football to combat Malaria.

By Mrs Rajah Diouri Sy.

Special Olympics Senegal has signed an memorandum of understanding with Speak up Africa to create a “Football Combating Malaria Nation.” Speak Up Africa is a creative health communications advocacy organisation dedicated to catalyzing African leadership, enabling policy change, securing resources and inspiring individual action.View Story Special Olympics Senegal has signed an MOU with Speak up Africa to create a “Football Combating Malaria Nation.” Speak Up Africa is a creative health communications advocacy organisation dedicated to catalyzing African leadership, enabling policy change, securing resources and inspiring individual action for the most pressing issue affecting Africa’s future, child health. Following the signing approximately 30 Coaches in the Senegal were trained by Speak Up Africa under the “Football combating Malaria” program. Coaches were trained and educated by both organisations around Malaria, the Football combating Malaria Campaign, a community census programme, the distribution of insecticide-treated nets, communication for behavioural change, and follow up assessment and supervision. The thirty coaches are now regarded as community leaders combating malaria. They will visit communities, assisted by the Ministry of Health, to share prevention methods using football as a medium. They are now proud agents of change and the partnership with Speak Up Africa will reinforce Special Olympics Senegal’s engagement in the community.

About Mrs Rajah Diouri Sy.:Special Olympics Senegal National Director
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November 26, 2014 | Africa: Senegal

Senegal hosts their annual Camp Shriver.

By Mrs Rajah Diouri Sy.

Special Olympics Senegal annually hosts a Camp Shriver that hosts over 100 children. The Camp continues a tradition that created by our founder, the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver who hosted the first camp right in her own backyard in Maryland.View Story Special Olympics Senegal annually hosts a Camp Shriver that hosts over 100 children. The Camp continues a tradition that created by our founder, the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver who hosted the first camp right in her own backyard in Maryland. The Camp Shriver experience significantly boosts skills in multiple sports and fosters social inclusion for athletes with and without intellectual disabilities who come together in a common goal of inclusion and participation regardless of ability. Special Olympics Senegal receives great support for this camp from the Ministry of Youth and this relationship has made it possible for the program to host this event annually. This year 121 athletes and partners experienced a great camping adventure. They got to participate in table tennis and basketball; swimming lessons were treated to a field trip to the zoo, a guided tour at the Economic and social council, and a visit to the Monument of the Renaissance. The athletes were trained by Special Olympics Senegal coaches and were chaperoned by volunteers and 21 monitors and a special education teacher. They all enjoyed their time at the camp and are looking forward to the next year’s camp.

About Mrs Rajah Diouri Sy.:Special Olympics Senegal National Director
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November 26, 2014 | Africa: South Africa

NBA Basketball Without Borders in South Africa

By Mrs Igna Steyn

Special Olympics South Africa annually partners with the NBA under the NBA Cares banner. A Basketball without Borders (BWB) clinic takes place in Johannesburg each year and Special Olympics is invited to participate.View Story Special Olympics South Africa annually partners with the NBA under the NBA Cares banner. A Basketball without Borders (BWB) clinic takes place in Johannesburg each year and Special Olympics is invited to participate. NBA Cares is the league's global social responsibility program that builds on the NBA's mission of addressing important social issues in the world. Through the BWB camp, the NBA, its teams, players and coaches annually provide our athletes with skills training. This year 65 athletes and partners participated in the clinic that took place at the American International School of Johannesburg. South Africa Minister of Sports, Mr. Fikile Mbalula, came to visit the clinic and is an ardent supporter of the BWB program. NBA Cares works with internationally recognized youth-serving programs that support education, youth and family development, and health-related causes, including: KaBOOM!, Special Olympics, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, UNICEF, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Share Our Strength and GLAAD.

About Mrs Igna Steyn :I am the CEO of Special Olympics South Africa
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November 21, 2014 | Asia Pacific: Pakistan

“One of the happiest days of my life”

By Asim Zar

Hello. I have been swimming for last seven years and recently I participated in the Regional & National Games 2014 held by Special Olympics Pakistan. The encouragement by the Coaches & other fellow athletes made me feel important.View Story Hello. I have been swimming for last seven years and recently I participated in the Regional & National Games 2014 held by Special Olympics Pakistan. The encouragement by the Coaches & other fellow athletes made me feel important. After games, team was invited at a club where Regional men’s swimming championship was going on. There were about 300 spectators and Special Olympics Pakistan athletes were invited to swim alongside main stream swimmers. Seeing so many people, I was so nervous & afraid but instead I wanted to prove myself and this was a golden opportunity for me. I performed my best that day & could hear everyone cheering & shouting and when I got to the finish line we were announced the winners. It was the encouragement I got from all around me. This Gold medal I won, all credit goes to Special Olympics Pakistan & my family for believing me & giving confidence. I also was given the mike to say a few words. I grab the mike & showed my excitement like never before. I`m proud to be a part of Special Olympics.

About Asim Zar :My name is Asim Zar and I am 27 years old special athlete and currently working in “DANPAK” food factory as a general helper in packaging department.
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November 13, 2014 | North America: Wisconsin

Today my 12 year old son had his sister called the R-word

By Dan's proud mom

Parent teacher conferences today and the teacher shared a story that happened this afternoon. A classmate of my 6th grader, Daniel, called our daughter, Gemma, who has Down syndrome, the horrible, hurtful word.View Story Parent teacher conferences today and the teacher shared a story that happened this afternoon. A classmate of my 6th grader, Daniel, called our daughter, Gemma, who has Down syndrome, the horrible, hurtful word. My son reacted by defending her and admonishing the word. It did not go well, but the teacher supported Daniel and reported that the child's parents were informed and they were very embarrassed. Daniel stayed strong, until we got home. It is extremely painful to have these lovely people called horrible names. We talked it over and cried together and vowed to spread the word to end the word. It is a daily battle. I just ordered him a t-shirt and a bracelet--it can't get here soon enough! Thank you for keeping us strong!

About Dan's proud mom:I am a mom blessed with 2 wonderful, happy, loving children. One of them has an extra chromosome, but the only things I count are my blessings.
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November 13, 2014 | Latin America: Brazil

Being a partner

By Dalva Pompermayer

Dalva Pompermayer (partner) and Ruy Carneiro (athlete) from Special Olympics Brazil will be playing unified doubles in LA 2015

I am Dalva Pompermayer, 62 years old and I always heard about Special Olympics but I have never being involved before because I had to take care of my old mom and after her death, taking care of my sister with Alzheimer's disease.View Story I am Dalva Pompermayer, 62 years old and I always heard about Special Olympics but I have never being involved before because I had to take care of my old mom and after her death, taking care of my sister with Alzheimer's disease. But in my free time I kept playing tennis because I love this game where I could met my friends and distracted my head from this terrible desease that consumes us. And suddenly, I was invited by a very good friend to play a unified double with Ruy, the best tennis player with intellectual disabilities in Jundiai, SP (our home town) and I can affirm that he is the best tennis player in Brazil. At the beginning I was afraid to play with him because he hates to lose and during our first matches we were losing so many points, what made him nuts. After many other practices together, I have learned how to deal with his anger and now I can say that we are real partners. He respects me, one helps the other during the matches, we train twice a week and that opportunity brought me back to life.

About Dalva Pompermayer:Dalva Pompermayer, 62 years old, retired, a amateur tennis player and a Special Olympics lover.
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November 13, 2014 | North America: Pennsylvania

How I Became a Marathon Runner

By Ernie Roundtree

I was told that I can't do that because of my asthma and my disabilities I wouldn't survive. When I was 16 I started competing in track and field in Special Olympics in high school. Special Olympics Pennsylvania taught me to believe in myself.View Story When I was a kid my dream was to run in a marathon. It all started watching the new York marathon on tv and I told my biological family that one of these years I want to run the marathon. I was told that I can't do that because of my asthma and my disabilities I wouldn't survive. When I was 16 I started competing in track and field in Special Olympics in high school. Special Olympics Pennsylvania taught me to believe in myself and my coach Gigi told me, "Ernie, you can do anything you want if you put your mind to it." On 2014 of January I ran my first marathon at Disney World and finished at the time of 6 hours 24 minutes and 25 seconds. I was so amazed at what I accomplished. On May 18 2014 I completed it on my second marathon, finishing with the time of 5 hours 31 minutes and 28 seconds. I would like to thank Special Olympics Pennsylvania and my coach Gigi for teaching me to have faith in myself and I could do anything I can do if I can put my mind to it and not let my disability stop me from fulfilling my dreams.

About Ernie Roundtree:My name is Ernie Roundtree and I am an athlete and athlete representatives from Monroe County Special Olympics Pennsylvania
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November 05, 2014 | Europe Eurasia: Israel

"I got more than I gave!" - Unified Bowling teammate from Israel tells his story

By Marius Lybovitch

The Israel Bowling Federation formed a joint venture with Special Olympics Israel, where Special Olympics athletes play in the national league.

I signed up to Unified Bowling to give something back. Let me say one simple, yet, meaningful sentence - in this case I really don't know who is one the giving side and, who is on the receiving side. In the end I felt that I was given something special. The energy that I got from the Special OView Story I signed up to Unified Bowling to give something back. Let me say one simple, yet, meaningful sentence - in this case I really don't know who is one the giving side and, who is on the receiving side. In the end I felt that I was given something special. The energy that I got from the Special Olympics athletes via a smile or by cheer; fills you up with a sense of victory and unprecedented achievement. What is considered easy and straightforward for me, was nothing less than huge effort for the athletes. It was great will power and persistence, despite the obvious difficulties. I learned that one has to look over its limitations and disabilities and look straight ahead to the target. Although sometimes we see these athletes through their disabilities, they don't - so, who is the one with the disabled and limited vision? I'm looking forward to the next meeting, this time with a better understanding and respect to the athletes and to the Bowling Federation for this initiative.

About Marius Lybovitch :I am a Unified Bowling partner with the Super Strike Club, Israel.
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November 05, 2014 | North America: Illinois

My whole life story from the beginning

By Nick Joseph

Well it started when I was 9 years old. I started to play sports at that age. My Special Olympics sports are floor hockey, soccer, basketball and volleyball, so I was glad I played those.View Story Well it started when I was 9 years old. I started to play sports at that age. My Special Olympics sports are floor hockey, soccer, basketball and volleyball, so I was glad I played those. Special thanks to coach Dave and my others from 54. Coach Kelly and Coach Chris and Mike Storka. And now how did I get into Special Olympics? Well it started off as me going to junior high which is Frost and I wanted to try out for the basketball team for regular boys. Turns out though, that I was not good enough to play but that didn't stop me from playing sports. For my friends in Special Olympics, I say to you and people, "Read this and think that oh well why not give up", then well, I will tell you why not give up: because when finally you realize that you try be good at something you're not good at, you can't give up just because you aren't good at it. You practice and think what am I doing wrong and you tell yourself, "Hey I may not be the best but I'm trying to have fun. That's all you need to know. Have fun. Never give up or quit. Thanks.

About Nick Joseph:I'm an athlete who believes that you can improve your sports or anything if you try and don't give up at all. Thx
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November 05, 2014 | North America: Texas

inspiring people

By bridgette

Last year, I met Mary Francis and during my 50-meter race I saw her on the ground, so I stopped, ran back and got her up and we both crossed the finish line together.View Story i am Bridgette Thomas and I have been doing Special Olympics for 8 years. I started in 3rd grade and I have been doing it ever since, and it is amazing cause you get to make new friends and have fun at the same time. Last year, I met Mary Francis and during my 50-meter race I saw her on the ground, so I stopped, ran back and got her up and we both crossed the finish line together. I realized that winning isn't always important. It's about having fun with your friends and helping them out when they need it.

About bridgette:i am Bridgette Thomas. i live in Texas and i am a meet in the middle member at my high school i am 16 years old
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Our History

Decades of sports for people with intellectual disabilities.
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MicrosoftRevolutionizing information systems that power our games.Learn more »


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MTM RecognitionSupplier of awards and medals for our athletes.Learn More »


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UNICEFProvides greater inclusion of children with disabilities.Learn More »


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Special Olympics Blog

Sport and Tech Team Up for Good

Now, thanks to Microsoft, athletes, coaches and families will have rapid access to useful information about their scores, times, personal bests, fitness and health. Special Olympics can use this capability to dramatically improve the lives of people in our Movement.  read more »

Posted on 2014-10-27 by Janet

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