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About Special Olympics Competitions, Results & Schedules

The Special Olympics mission is to provide year-round sport training and athletic competition in more than 30 Olympic-type sports for people with intellectual disability. Year-round training and competitions offer a way to improve fitness,  learn new skills, make friends, develop confidence and practice sportsmanship.

Special Olympics Virginia athlete Daniel Morales intently eyes the basketball rim as an official keeps watch in the background

Special Olympics combines intense competition at all levels of age and ability with close attention to rules and protocol.

Competition with a Difference

Special Olympics athletes range from gifted, world-class competitors to average athletes to those with limited physical ability. It’s a fundamental rule at Special Olympics that athletes in competitions are matched up according to their ability and age.
This “divisioning” process makes every competition fair, competitive and exciting for the athletes and the fans in the stands. 

Founding Principles

Special Olympics was founded in 1968 on the belief that people with intellectual disabilities benefit from participation in individual and team sports. Consistent training helps develop sport skills. Competition among those of equal abilities tests skills, measures progress and encourages personal growth.

Results: Beyond Gold

At every awards ceremony, in addition to the traditional medals for first, second and third places, athletes finishing from fourth to last place are presented a suitable place ribbon with appropriate ceremony.

Competitions Depend on Volunteers

As much as possible, Special Olympics local competitions are run by and involve local volunteers. This makes Special Olympics a community activity that allows more people with intellectual disabilities to take part, but also to create opportunities for volunteers to get to know and appreciate people with intellectual disabilities.

Special Olympics provides detailed, in-depth coaching guides for its volunteer coaches. The coaches are a powerful and influential presence in the sporting lives of the athletes.

At many competitions, volunteer referees are there to ensure by-the-book attention to the rules.

How to Get Involved in Special Olympics

Special Olympics sports training, coaching and competitions go on in more than 170 countries around the world. You can get involved by getting in touch with the closest Special Olympics office.

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Made Possible by The Annenberg Foundation

The Special Olympics movement is profoundly grateful for the support of the Annenberg Foundation which has underwritten the production of the coaches’ guides and resources, supporting our global goals for coaches’ excellence.


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Special Olympics Blog

The Start of the Solution

Young people from around the globe with and without intellectual disabilities are coming together at the SOGenUin Summit as part of the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games with one goal - to change the world.


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Posted on 2015-07-23 by Natalie

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