Special Olympics History

In June 1963, Eunice Kennedy Shriver started a summer camp for people with intellectual disabilities in Maryland and five years later in 1968, the 1st international Special Olympics Summer Games were held at Soldier Field in Chicago. Thousands of people with intellectual disabilities from 26 states in the United States participated in track, field and swimming events.

In 1971, the U.S. Olympics Committee gave the organization the official approval of using the word "Olympics" to name the games that they hold. In 1977, the 1st international Special Olympics Winter Games were held in Steamboat Springs in Colorado. The Law Enforcement Torch Run was organized in Wichita, Kansas in 1981. This occurred when the police chief Richard LaMunyon realized that there was a need to increase the awareness of these Special Olympics so that larger number of people could participate. This has become one of the largest fund raising events of the organization since then.

In 1986 United Nations launched the "Year of the Special Olympics" under the banner "Special Olympics Uniting the World" and in 1988 the organization signed an agreement with Sargent and Eunice Kennedy Shriver where the International Olympic Committee started to recognize the Special Olympics officially. In 1988, sports like bowling, volleyball and softball were also included in the Special Olympic events and in 1993 the first Winter Olympics were held outside of United States. This was in Salzburg and Schladming in Austria.

In the 1995 Special Olympic World Summer Games, a series of new initiatives were added. These included the Host Town Program, healthy Athletes and Research and Policy Symposia. The Healthy Athletes initiative became an official part of the Special Olympics event from then on. Free vision, hearing and dental screening in addition to injury prevention clinics and nutrition education are part of this program. The Special Olympics gala was given a new twist when President Clinton and first lady Hillary Clinton hosted "A Very Special Christmas" at the White House.

Today the Special Olympics are known the world over and enjoy participation from all over the world. The 2011 Special Olympics were held in Athens, Greece and about 7000 athletes from 170 countries took part.


NOTE: Information on this site is not guaranteed to be accurate. Some content is compiled from 3rd party sources. If you are aware of incorrect or outdated information, feel free to contact us.

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