Special Olympics World Games

Special Olympics World Games
The crowd at the Special Olympics World Games Opening Ceremonies in Croke Park, Dublin, Ireland, 2003
Status Active
Genre Sporting event
Date(s) Various
Frequency Every two years
Country Various
Inaugurated 1968 (1968) (summer)
1977 (1977) (winter)

The Special Olympics World Games are an international sporting competition for athletes with intellectual disabilities, organized by the IOC-recognised Special Olympics organisation.


Although local Special Olympics events and competitions are held around the world every day, the World Games are flagship events. The goal is to showcase the skills and accomplishments of people with intellectual disabilities on a global stage.[1] The World Games feature more than a week of competitions involving thousands of athletes. Through media coverage of the Games, the stories and achievements of children and adults with intellectual disabilities are made known to millions of people worldwide.[1]

Special Olympics World Games take place every two years and alternate between Summer and Winter Games, a schedule similar to the Olympics and Paralympics. Attracting as many as 350,000 volunteers and coaches, plus several thousands of athletes, these World Games can be the world's largest sporting event of the year.[1][2]

Special Olympics athletes can compete in 32 Olympic-style summer or winter sports. The athletes are adults and children with intellectual disabilities who can range from gifted, world-class competitors to average athletes to those with limited physical ability. It's a fundamental rule of Special Olympics competitions that athletes are matched up according to their ability and age. This “divisioning” process is an effort to make every competition fair, competitive and exciting for athletes as well as fans.[3]


The first International Special Olympics Summer Games were held in Chicago, Illinois, US, in 1968, while the first International Special Olympics Winter Games were held in February 1977 in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, US. In 1991, the name was officially changed from International Special Olympics Summer/Winter Games to Special Olympics World Summer/Winter Games.[4]

In 2011, Special Olympics World Summer Games were held on June 25 – July 4 in Athens, Greece, involving 6,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities from 170 countries.[2]

IN 2013, the Special Olympics World Winter Games were held in PyeongChang, South Korea from Jan. 29 – Feb. 5.The Host Town program, in which families host Special Olympics athletes from around the world t 13.[5]

The most recent 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games were held in Los Angeles, California from July 25 – Aug. 2, 2015.[6] These games were the first Special Olympics World Summer Games held in the United States in 16 years since the 1999 Summer Games held in Raleigh, North Carolina.

The most recent World Winter Games were the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Graz and Schladming in Styria, Austria. This marked a return: Salzburg and Schladming, Austria hosted the fifth Special Olympics World Winter Games in 1993. These were the first Special Olympics World Games held outside the United States. The 2017 World Winter Games were held on March 14-25, 2017. [7]

The next Special Olympics World Summer Games will be held March 14-21, 2019 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. These will be the first Special Olympics World Games to be held in the Middle East/North Africa region.[8] Competitions will be held in 24 sports. z


Special Olympics World Games hosts
Year Summer Special Olympics World Games Winter Special Olympics World Games
19681 Chicago, United StatesJuly 20 – August 3
19702 Chicago, United StatesAugust 13 – 15
19723 Los Angeles, United StatesAugust 13 – 18
19754 Mount Pleasant, United StatesAugust 8 – 13
19771 Steamboat Springs, United StatesFebruary 5 – 11
19795 Brockport, United StatesAugust 8 – 13
19812 Smugglers' Notch and Stowe, United StatesMarch 8 – 13
19836 Baton Rouge, United StatesJuly 12 – 18
19853 Park City, United StatesMarch 24 – 29
19877 Notre Dame and South Bend, United StatesJuly 31 – August 1
19894 Lake Tahoe and Reno, United StatesApril 1 – 8
19918 Minneapolis and Saint Paul, United StatesJuly 19 – 27
19935 Salzburg and Schladming, AustriaMarch 20 – 27
19959 New Haven, United StatesJuly 1 – 9
19976 Collingwood and Toronto, CanadaFebruary 1 – 8
199910 Chapel Hill, Durham and Raleigh, United StatesJune 26 – July 4
20017 Anchorage, United StatesMarch 4 – 11
200311 Dublin, IrelandJune 21 – 29
20058 Nagano, JapanFebruary 26 – March 4
200712 Shanghai, ChinaOctober 2 – 11
20099 Boise, United States(1)February 6 – 13
201113 Athens, GreeceJune 25 – July 4
201310 Pyeongchang, South KoreaJanuary 29 – February 5
201514 Los Angeles, United StatesJuly 25 – August 2
201711 Graz and Schladming, AustriaMarch 14 – 25
201915 Abu Dhabi, United Arab EmiratesMarch 14 – 21
1 Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, was originally selected to host the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games.[9] The city, however, later decided to withdraw from hosting, and Boise, Idaho, was selected to host the event instead.[10]

Official Summer Sports

See footnote[11]

Official Winter Sports

See footnote[11]

Recognized Sports

Demonstration Sports

  • Stick Shooting

Regional games

Asia Pacific Games

In 2013, Australia hosted the first ever Special Olympics Asia Pacific Games.[12]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 "Special Olympics: World Games Overview". specialolympics.org.
  2. 1 2 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-02-23. Retrieved 2012-09-03.
  3. "Special Olympics: About Competitions Results Schedules". specialolympics.org.
  4. "Special Olympics: History of Special Olympics". specialolympics.org.
  5. "Welcome World Winter Games PyeongChang 2013". 2013sopoc.org. Archived from the original on 2012-08-17. Retrieved 2012-08-16.
  6. "Special Olympics World Summer Games – Los Angeles 2015". La2015.org. Archived from the original on 2015-07-08. Retrieved 2012-08-16.
  7. Austria to host 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games. October 12, 2012. Special Olympics official website. Retrieved 2014-06-21.
  8. http://www.abudhabi2019.org/
  9. "2009 Special Olympics To Take Place In Sarajevo, Bosnia And Herzegovina". GamesBid.com. Retrieved 25 July 2015.
  10. McLaughlin, Micah (June 14, 2006). "Special Olympics come to Idaho in 2009". The Arbiter. The Arbiter. Retrieved 25 July 2015.
  11. 1 2 Sports & Games. Special Olympics official website. Retrieved 2014-06-21.
  12. Asia Pacific Games / Newcastle 2013. Special Olympics official website. Retrieved 2014-06-21.
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