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|Founder(s)||Eunice Kennedy Shriver|
|Headquarters||1133 19th Street, N.W., Washington, DC, U.S. 20036|
|Key people||Timothy Shriver (Chairman and CEO)
J. Brady Lum (President and COO)
Stephen M. Carter (Lead Director & Vice Chair)
Bart Conner (Vice Chair)
Raymond J. Lane (Vice Chair)
Professor William Alford (Treasurer)
Special Olympics is the world's largest sports organization for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, providing year-round training and competitions to more than 4 million athletes in 170 countries. Special Olympics competitions are held every day, all around the world—including local, national and regional competitions, adding up to more than 53,000 events a year.
These competitions include the Special Olympics World Games, which alternate between summer and winter games. Special Olympics World Games are held every two years. The Special Olympics World Games are often the largest sporting event to take place in the world during that year. The most recent World Summer Games were the Special Olympics World Summer Games, held in Athens, Greece, from June 25, 2011 to July 4, 2011.
The most recent Special Olympics World Winter Games were held in Pyeongchang, South Korea from January 29 to February 5, 2013. At the same time, the first Special Olympics Global Development Summit was held on "Ending the Cycle of Poverty and Exclusion for People with Intellectual Disabilities," gathering government officials, activists and business leaders from around the world 
The next World Games will be the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles, California from July 24 to August 2, 2015. Graz and Schladming, Austria will host the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games in 2017.
The first International Special Olympics Summer Games were held at Soldier Field in Chicago in 1968. Anne McGlone Burke, a physical education teacher with the Chicago Park District, began with the idea for a one-time Olympic-style athletic competition for people with special needs. Burke then approached Eunice Kennedy Shriver, head of the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation, to fund the event. Shriver encouraged Burke to expand on the idea and the JPK Foundation provided a grant of $25,000. More than 1,000 athletes from across the United States and Canada participated. At the July 1968 games, Shriver announced the formation of Special Olympics.
Shriver’s sister, Rosemary Kennedy, underwent a lobotomy in an effort by her father to cure her mental illness. The brain damage inflicted by the operation caused her to be permanently incapacitated. This disability is often credited as Shriver's inspiration to form the Special Olympics, but Shriver told The New York Times in 1995 that was not the case.
In June 1962, Eunice Kennedy Shriver started a day camp, known as Camp Shriver, for children with intellectual disabilities at her home in Potomac, Maryland. She started this camp because she was concerned about disabled children with nowhere to play. Using Camp Shriver as an example, Shriver promoted the concept of involvement in physical activity and competition opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities. Camp Shriver became an annual event, and the Kennedy Foundation (of which Shriver was executive vice president) gave grants to universities, recreation departments and community centers to hold similar camps.
The first 1977 Special Olympics World Winter Games|International Special Olympics Winter Games were held in February 1977 in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, USA.
In 1997, Healthy Athletes became an official Special Olympics initiative, offering health information and screenings to Special Olympics athletes worldwide. By 2010, the Healthy Athletes program had given free health screenings and treatment to more than 1 million people with intellectual disabilities.
In 2003 the first Special Olympics World Summer Games to be held outside of the United States took place in Dublin Ireland. Approximately 7,000 athletes from 150 countries competed over 18 disciplines. The Dublin games were also the first to have their own opening and closing ceremonies broadcast live, performed by President of Ireland Mary McAleese. Most significantly the 2003 games dramatically changed the perceptions and attitudes of society regarding the abilities and limitations of people with intellectual disabilities. The opening ceremony of the 2003 Games has been described by President of Ireland Mary McAleese as "a time when Ireland was at its superb best".
On October 30, 2004, President George W. Bush signed into law the "Special Olympics Sport and Empowerment Act," Public Law 108-406. The bill authorized funding for its Healthy Athletes, Education, and Worldwide Expansion programs. Co-sponsored by Representatives Roy Blunt (R-MO), and Steny Hoyer (D-MD), and Senators Rick Santorum (R-PA) and Harry Reid (D-NV), the bills were passed by unanimous consent in both chambers.
In 2011, Senators Tom Harkin and Roy Blunt and Representatives Steny Hoyer and Peter King introduced the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Act to authorize federal funding for Special Olympics Programs and Best Buddies Programs.
The Special Olympics logo has gone through several changes in its lifetime. The "stick figure" is an abstract but humanistic form designed to convey the impression of movement and activity. The logo is a symbol of growth, confidence and joy among children and adults with disabilities who are learning coordination, mastering skills, participating in competitions and preparing themselves for richer, more productive lives. The spherical appearance of the logo is a representation of Special Olympics' global outreach.
Special Olympics programs are available for athletes free of charge. More than 4 million athletes are involved in Special Olympics sports training and competition in 170 countries. The organization offers year-round training and competition in 32 Olympic-style summer and winter sports.
People with intellectual disabilities are encouraged to join Special Olympics for the physical activity, which helps lower the rate of cardiovascular disease and obesity, among other health benefits. Also, they gain many emotional and psychological benefits, including self-confidence, social competence, building greater athletic skills and higher self esteem. The motivations for joining the Special Olympics vary from one individual to the next yet, there are common themes among individuals and their families that encourage them to either participate or abstain from the Special Olympics.
Special Olympics competitions are open to athletes ages 8 and up. For young people with intellectual disabilities ages 2–7, Special Olympics has a Young Athletes program—a sport and play program with a focus on fun activities that are important to mental and physical growth. Children engage in games and activities that develop motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Parents say their children in Young Athletes also develop better social skills. The confidence boost makes it easier for them to play and talk with other children on the playground and elsewhere . A study by the Center for Social Development and Education (University of Massachusetts, Boston) found that the activities also had the effect of helping children with intellectual disabilities learn routines and approaches to learning, along with how to follow rules and directions.
Families can also get involved with the Special Olympics experience. Family members support their athletes to the best of their ability, which may involve attending or volunteering at the events. By being involved they can boost their athlete's self-esteem and will be looked at as a constant source of encouragement.
Volunteers and supporters are an integral part of Special Olympics—and millions of people around the world are committed to its programs. Some are sponsors or donors. Many others are coaches, event volunteers and fans.
Coaches help the athletes be the best they can be regardless of ability—or disability. Special Olympics trains coaches through the Coaching Excellence program, which includes partnering with sports organizations. Special Olympics volunteers are introduced to lifetime friendships and great rewards.
There are many events that families and volunteers can get involved with, but the biggest event is the Law Enforcement Torch Run. The Torch Run involves police chiefs, police officers, secret service, FBI agents, military police, sheriffs, state troopers, prison guards, and other law enforcement personnel. They all get together to raise awareness and funds for Special Olympics. Ahead of a Special Olympics competition, law enforcement officers carry the torch in intervals along a planned route covering most of the state or country to the site of the opening ceremonies of the chapter or Special Olympics World Summer or Winter Games. Then they then pass the torch to a Special Olympics athlete and together they run up to the cauldron and light it, signifying the beginning of the games.
The Special Olympics athlete's oath is "Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt." It was first introduced by Eunice Kennedy Shriver at the inaugural Special Olympics international games in Chicago in 1968.
Sports offered 
Special Olympics has over 32 Olympic-type individual and team sports that provide meaningful training and competition opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities. A few are listed below:
The above list shows a few of the 32 sports that Special Olympics offers; there are several more recognized and demonstration sports, including Open Water Swimming, Kayaking, Floorball, Cricket, Netball and Beach Volleyball. Availability of sports can depend on location and season.
A key difference between Special Olympics competitions and those of other sports organizations is that athletes of all ability levels are encouraged to participate. Competitions are structured so that athletes compete with other athletes of similar ability in equitable divisions. An athlete's ability is the primary factor in divisioning Special Olympics competitions. The ability of an athlete or team is determined by an entry score from a prior competition or the result of a seeding round or preliminary event at the competition itself. Other factors that are significant in establishing competitive divisions are age and sex.
At competitions, medals are awarded to the first, second and third-place winners in each event and ribbons are awarded to athletes who finish in fourth through eighth place.
In the Young Athletes program, children ages 2–7 play simple sports and games. The focus is on fun activities that are important to mental and physical growth.
In 1968, track and field and swimming were the first two official sports offered by Special Olympics. As in the Olympics, events are introduced in training and then added to the competitive schedule, and from there the list of sports and events continued to grow.
Famous supporters 
The Special Olympics movement has attracted the support of a number of international sportsmen and other celebrities, including Rafer Johnson, Bono, Joe Jonas, Derek Poundstone, Padraig Harrington, Jackie Chan, Zhang Ziyi, Yao Ming, Nadia Comaneci, Bart Conner, Vanessa Williams, Mary Alice Pearce DeVane, Colin Farrell and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Nelson Mandela, Muhammad Ali and Quincy Jones took part in a 2003 Global Youth Summit at the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Dublin, Ireland. U.S. President Bill Clinton took part in a Global Youth Summit during the 2005 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Nagano, Japan.
In 2011, Princess Charlene of Monaco, herself a former Olympian, was named as a Global Ambassador for Special Olympics. Olympic swimming legend Michael Phelps was also named a Global Ambassador and has taken part in aquatics clinics for Special Olympics swimmers in Shanghai, China and elsewhere. Other celebrity supporters include Olympic stars Michelle Kwan, Apolo Ohno, Scott Hamilton, actress Brooklyn Decker and football star Dani Alves.
Some feel that the Special Olympics in itself are a form of segregation. This is because of the necessity to have a disability to participate. Some studies have shown that Special Olympic events do not lead to the reduction of prejudice and also reinforces negative stereotypes of people with intellectual disabilities. One of the main arguments against the Special Olympics organization is that there is a lack of normalization and promotion of negative images. The lack of normalization comes from the differences in reaction to events. For example in previous years the Special Olympics would find people to stand at the finish line to hug the athletes once they've completed a race. Also, the Special Olympics do not announce anyone who's lost a race.
There are many other documented reasons that people show disdain such as promotion of Handicapism, promotion of corporations, paternalism, athletic ability. The promotion of Handicappism is a theory that when a set of practice is put in place to promote unequal treatment of people because of assumed mental disability it creates two classes of people "normal" and "disabled". The integration of Corporations within the Special Olympics does help with fundraising and creates a large sum of donations to make these games possible. Yet, most of the promotions are more Public Relations related than promoting their hiring practices for people with intellectual disabilities. The term Paternalism is used to describe how the Special Olympics Organization is run. The board of directors have recognized only two of their board to have developmental disabilities. Therefore, the people doing the decision making and have the power of running this program are the people without disabilities. This is a negative image on the Disability rights movement where people with disabilities control the service delivery system rather than relying on people without disabilities.
See also 
- Flame of Hope
- Motivations for joining the Special Olympics
- Olympic Games
- Paralympic Games
- Special Hockey
- Special Olympics Canada
- Special Olympics Great Britain
- Special Olympics USA
- Special Olympics World Games
- Wheelchair basketball
- 2013 Winter Special Olympics
- "Special Olympics Board of Directors". specialolympics.org. Retrieved February 4, 2013.
- "Welcome". athens2011.org. Retrieved February 4, 2013.
- "Main page". 2013sopoc.org. Retrieved February 4, 2013.
- "Main page". la2015.org. Retrieved February 4, 2013.
- "World Winter Games return to Austria". specialolympics.org. October 12, 2012. Retrieved 4 February 2013.
- Kessler, p. 247
- Kessler, p. 246
- Johnson, Kirk (June 23, 1995). "Reaching the Retarded: An Old Kennedy Mission". The New York Times. Retrieved July 5, 2011.
- "The History of Special Olympics". Retrieved September 12, 2010.
- Mary Davis,, “How Health Checks on our Special Athletes are saving lives”, Evening Herald, Thursday, April 7th 2011
- Fiona Brady, Taskforce ON citizenship, “Her bridges built, McAleese reflects on a decade in office”, Irish Independent, Saturday, November 3rd 2007
- "Special Olympics Sport and Empowerment Act of 2004". October 30, 2004. Retrieved September 12, 2010.
- "USA National Games".[dead link]
- "The Driving Force: Motivation in Special Olympians". 2004. Retrieved September 23, 2011.
- "Our Familes". specialolympics.org. Retrieved February 4, 2013.
- "Volunteer for Special Olympics". specialolympics.org. Retrieved February 4, 2013.
- "Famous Supporters". specialolympics.org. Retrieved February 4, 2013.
- Storey, Keith (2004). "The Case Against the Special Olympics". Journal of Disability Policy Studies 15 (1): 35–42. Retrieved 9 November 2011.
- https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:pmqU5Y_drkkJ:www.internationalsped.com/documents/You%2520Know%2520Eunice_Foote_FORMATTED.doc+criticism+of+special+olympics&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESj9moz27H6M-wA9FDDd5PqqE0ACaCr8Ru4yAszWMDMQIapA9HwNKviyhFHj89SFD3YfGpxwmlTo4mkNzHWbrdAMKsdFSbDLuiq4GACso4Jp7mDY2kyYknEUaeH2vcUbRDLt8f3o&sig=AHIEtbTHjxy-b-BtlxVjtzS6PqUet_b9_A YOU KNOW, EUNICE, THE WORLD WILL NEVER BE THE SAME AFTER THIS
Further reading 
- Kessler, Ronald. The Sins of the Father: Joseph P. Kennedy and the Dynasty He Founded. Warner Books, 1996. ISBN 0-446-60384
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Special Olympics|
- Special Olympics
- Special Olympics Live Internet video coverage of the 2009 Special Olympics games.
- Special Olympics Australia