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.
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 33 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
September 19, 2014 | Europe Eurasia: Belgium
Special Olympics mean everything to Pieter
By Emilie Bruynbroeck
Special Olympics mean a lot to Belgian swimmer Pieter Schram, one of the Belgian ambassadors. Pieter, 17, has autism and has had a rough time at school as well as at home.View Story ▼Special Olympics mean a lot to Belgian swimmer Pieter Schram, one of the Belgian ambassadors. Pieter, 17, has autism and has had a rough time at school as well as at home. He found it hard to structure his life. That is why he was always very fidgety and too shy to make some friends. Swimming has helped him to create some structure as a result of wich he is much more at ease and he can cope with his environment more easily.Pieter is very grateful towards his coach, his school and Special Olympics for giving him this opportunity. The motivation he felt after he qualified has given his self-confidence a real boost.Today he swam the selection round of 25 meters freestyle. At the starting shot, Pieter burst into the water in lane five. He could conquer pole position immediately and didn’t give it away anymore. Evidently he cried a cheer of joy with a time of 17.4 seconds. A time with which he has a big shot on a gold medal.
About Emilie Bruynbroeck:I am a volunteer contributor at the media desk in Antwerp Expo. I study journalism. View less ▲
September 18, 2014 | Europe Eurasia: Belgium
Healthy Athletes Saving Lives at Antwerp 2014
By Maureen Rabbitt
Volunteer medical specialists at Healthy Athletes conduct free examinations in a whole range of medical care and services.
Volunteer health professionals at a Healthy Athletes Fit Feet clinic may have saved the life of a Special Olympics athlete Wednesday. They found she had an infection caused by a toenail growing into her flesh.View Story ▼Volunteer health professionals at the Healthy Athletes Fit Feet clinic may have saved the life of a Special Olympics athlete Wednesday. They found she had an infection caused by a toenail growing into her flesh.
”Untreated, the blood of the athlete could have been poisoned within three days, which could cause death” says Carine Haemels, President of the International Federation of Specialists in Podiatry and Regional Clinical Adviser to the Fit Feet Program of the Special Olympics European Summer Games 2014.
"We immediately referred the athlete to a specialist and in this way her life was probably saved. In many cases people with an intellectual disability have a different sensibility to pain and as conditions develop may not feel the pain any more. So it can often happen that health problems are not revealed in time. A case like this proves that our work and the work of Special Olympics Healthy athletes is vital.”
About Maureen Rabbitt:I am responsible for Communications & Branding at Special Olympics Europe Eurasia. View less ▲
September 17, 2014 | North America: Washington
No Athlete to Super Athlete
By Elise Skovmand
When I turned 25 I joined Special Olympics. I have Cerebral Palsy. I liked water but didn't know how to swim. I wasn't doing well with sports when I was young, now I swim every day.View Story ▼I am a swimmer. When I turned 25 I joined Special Olympics. I have Cerebral Palsy. I liked water but didn't know how to swim. I wasn't doing well with sports when I was young, now I swim every day. I have a friend who keeps me on task and reminds me to "Just keep swimming" in Nemo's world! Swimming has kept me active and helps me to be confident in the water and not be afraid. I strive for the Gold medals! Having good sportmanship is also part of the key to having fun. Now I am a super athlete!
About Elise Skovmand:I am a athlete. I like to Swim. I practice everyday!View less ▲
September 15, 2014 | Asia Pacific: Pakistan
Respect for All!!
By lubna nawaz
I question myself: why should Hashim suffer? why can't he go out and enjoy the way he wants? He is a bit different and wants to see the world according to his understanding. He has his own abilities.View Story ▼Hi,my name is Lubna and mother of two boys with autism. Both are Special Olympics Pakistan athletes. My younger son Hashim is non-verbal and very hyper, especially going in market places and family events. I have noticed that people stared at us. They look at him as if someone alien has invaded. First, this used to embarrass me a lot, and every time I used to promise myself I will not take my son along with me, but being his mother, I question myself: why should Hashim suffer? why can't he go out and enjoy the way he wants? He is a bit different and wants to see the world according to his understanding. He has his own abilities.
I have come to a firm belief that as he doesn't judge anyone, so no one else has the right to judge him. Now I take him out with pride and make sure that he enjoys his life!!
About lubna nawaz:Hello,I'm Lubna Nawaz ,mother of two boys name Haseeb and Hashim both are autistic and are Special Olympics Pakistan athletes. I am also part of the family support network of Special Olympics Pakistan.View less ▲
September 11, 2014 | SOI General: Headquarters
A Big Bite Out of Global Oral Health Disparities
By Lynn Aylward
Special Olympics Bharat
Special Olympics Bharat (India) is participating in a new dental clinic and securing important new partners for its Healthy Athletes oral health work.View Story ▼Special Olympics Bharat (India) is participating in a new dental clinic and securing important new partners for its Healthy Athletes oral health work.
Dr. Reena. R. Kumar is a dental professor at Divya Jyoti College of Dental Sciences & Research and a Special Olympics Healthy Athletes Special Smiles Clinical Director. She is inaugurating a Special Care Clinic, in conjunction with the International Association for Disability & Oral Health (IADH), on September 15. On the same day, IADH launches its India Chapter.
Special Olympics Bharat (India), IADH’s new India chapter, and Divya Jyoti College of Dental Sciences & Research have also signed a memorandum of understanding to create a sustainable model to provide quality oral health care to people with intellectual disabilities.
Since 17 percent of the world’s teeth are located in India, the Special Care Clinic and the MOU are a start at taking a big bite out of global oral health disparities for people with intellectual disabilities. Getting dental care and achieving oral health is one of the biggest health concerns for people with intellectual disabilities. IADH, with chapters in 40 countries, is dedicated to improving the oral health and quality of life of people with special needs and Special Olympics Healthy Athletes Special Smiles initiative provides dental health examinations and care for people with intellectual disabilities.
About Lynn Aylward:I work in communications for Special Olympics.View less ▲
September 04, 2014 | Asia Pacific: Pakistan
Umair Ahmed Shaikh
By Aisha Bandukda
Umair's siblings do not have any disabilities and his mother was very worried as he was unable to cope with his work. After joining Special Olympics Pakistan, a noticeable change could be seen as he made many new friends on the grounds.View Story ▼Umair Ahmed Shaikh, 23, has been a part of SPECIAL OLYMPICS PAKISTAN for 15 years. He helps out with office and kitchen work. His academic qualifications include passing Intermediate level. Sir Arif was training at his school, 'Danish Gha' and that is how his family was introduced to Special Olympics Pakistan. His siblings do not have any disabilities and his mother was very worried as he was unable to cope with his work. She admitted him in a special school where his improvement was very slow.
After joining Special Olympics Pakistan, a noticeable change could be seen as he made many new friends on the grounds.
He excelled in Basketball to the point of being selected for the world games (Athens 2011), where he won a silver medal, confirming that people with intellectual disabilities are as good as any other, if given a chance. He currently trains other special children in basketball.
His family and friends encourage others to join the programme.
About Aisha Bandukda:I am Aisha Bandukda, currently enrolled at IBA and I work as a volunteer at Special Olympics Pakistan.View less ▲
September 03, 2014 | Europe Eurasia: Ukraine
Despite the war Ukraine will participate in the 2015 Special Olympics World Games
By Elena Luzhanovskaya
Now in our wonderful Ukraine we are at war and have sadly already lost one of our most experienced trainer. The Ukrainian team for the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles will consist of 16 athletes, but we would like to bring 260.View Story ▼Special Olympics Ukraine is an organisation of over 19 000 athletes in most of the regions of Ukraine. However, this number is but a fraction of the 1 million people or so with intellectual disabilities that live here today. Most of them are isolated from society, face discrimination and do not have access to social institutions.
You rarely see people with intellectual disabilities in public places in Ukraine. As a result, most of them spend their whole life without the opportunity to develop their skills and realize their potential and for most citizens they are a forgotten people.
Participation in the activities of Special Olympics is vitally important to our society. We need to change the social stereotypes of the past so that people with intellectual difficulties can show their strengths, their heartfelt character and contribute to our society.
The Ukrainian team for the World Special Olympic Games in Los Angles will consist of 16 athletes, we would like to bring 260… Each of our athletes has a history of success. Each of them is training hard and want to prove to themselves, their families and friends that they are brave, strong and able to change their lives.
About Elena Luzhanovskaya:View less ▲
August 27, 2014 | Africa: Malawi
Bringing Safer Water to Families in Malawi
By David Evangelista
Families in three major areas of Malawi will receive water transport and water security supplies as part of a new partnership between the government of Malawi, Special Olympics Malawi and PackH2O.View Story ▼Families in three major areas of Malawi will receive water transport and water security supplies as part of a new partnership between the government of Malawi, Special Olympics Malawi and PackH2O. Families in Salima, Nkata Bay and Mchinji will get the supplies and training on how to use them in community forums. PackH2O provides waterproof backpacks that allow clean water to be carried more easily and securely than in buckets and jerry cans. The initiative is designed to empower families and entire communities to utilize new tools to ensure safer water transport and water security. Through the support of the Malawi Ministry of Disability, and leading development agencies like UNICEF, Special Olympics Malawi successfully delivered 150 water backpacks to families, while providing important health education on safe drinking water, disease prevention, and more. Special Olympics and PackH2O are keen to provide continuity of services and supplies to Kenya and Malawi, while expanding into more countries both in Africa and other regions. This project and others throughout Africa are the products of an African Leaders Forum on Disability held earlier this year in Malawi. That forum brought together Special Olympics with leaders of governments and aid agencies throughout Africa.
About David Evangelista:I am the Vice President of Global Development and Government Relations at Special Olympics.View less ▲
August 26, 2014 | Africa: Swaziland
Special Olympics Participates in Violence Against Children Conference
By Annemarie van Wieringen
Special Olympics and key leaders from government and civil society, as well as representatives from 20 countries, met recently to translate data on violence against children in to concrete response mechanisms – and action.View Story ▼In a meeting organized by the Kingdom of Swaziland, UNICEF and Together for Girls, with support from the U.S government, key leaders from government and civil society, as well as representatives from 20 countries, united to translate data on violence against children in to concrete response mechanisms – and action. “Violence against children not only violates the rights of children but also brings long-term pain to the victims and their families...undermining their potential for national development,” said Deputy Prime Minister of the Government of Swaziland, Senator Paul Dlamini. The participation of Special Olympics in the Violence Against Children conference represents a growing presence of Special Olympics in the international cooperation space, namely in ensuring that the post-2015 Millennium Development Goal framework includes people with intellectual disabilities.
About Annemarie van Wieringen:I am the Director of Global Development and Government Relations at Special Olympics.View less ▲
August 19, 2014 | Europe Eurasia: Great Britain
Conner and Comaneci: Volunteer Heroes
By Chris Hull
Bart Conner and Nadia Comaneci pose with gymnasts from Special Olympics Great Britain.
Hannah Westerman is going to represent Great Britain at the next Special Olympics World Games. Imagine her reaction when she found out she would meet Olympic gymnastics legend Nadia Comaneci.View Story ▼Hannah Westerman is going to represent Great Britain at the next Special Olympics World Games. Imagine her reaction when she found out she would meet Olympic gymnastics legend Nadia Comaneci. Not only meet her, but perform for her and have a 90-minute hands-on skills session with her. "Incredible," she said.
Comaneci and her husband, Olympic gold medalist Bart Conner, devoted an evening to a group of lucky Special Olympics Great Britain gymnasts on 18 August in London. It was part of a decades-long commitment to Special Olympics that the couple has shared. Both are big fans of Special Olympics and are on the Special Olympics International Board of Directors. They volunteer their experience and knowledge to ensure Special Olympics gymnasts around the world get a chance to perform to the peak of their abilities.
About Chris Hull:I am the communications director for Special Olympics Great Britain.View less ▲
Decades of sports for people with intellectual disabilities.Learn More ››
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