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.

230 x 300 Snowshoeing in Korea

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 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.
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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.
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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.
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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:
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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.
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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.
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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.
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August 19, 2014 | North America: Pennsylvania

Special Friend

By Nicholas Piccari

Special Olympics is a place where my brother Danny can be himself and a place that accepts all kinds of special athletes. Danny has been involved with Bucks County Special Olympics in gymnastics, soccer, softball, track and field, and bocce. He even had the honor to go to World Games in Shanghai China about 8 years ago.View Story I created a video that shows just a few examples of how not only my brother, but all people with special needs are truly amazing people. From the impact that they have on us, to the love that they share. How they simply want to live their lives just like we do. Yes, they have disabilities, but they are still humans just like everyone else. They long for friendship, fun, and even love. Special Olympics has been a blessing for my brother. Not one to be shy, clearly from the video, but it is a place where Danny can be himself and a place that accepts all kinds of special athletes. Danny has been involved with Bucks County Special Olympics his whole life. From gymnastics, to soccer, softball, track and field, and bocce. He has excelled in every event he has competed in. Even getting the honor to go to World Games in Shanghai China about 8 years ago. There are many positive thing one can say about Special Olympics. From the Coaches, to the volunteers that help out, the parents, but more importantly the friends Danny has created along the way. Friendship that are as strong today as they were when they first met through Special Olympics. Special Olympics is an organization that helps show how these athletes are true heroes. How many of them have overcome obstacles that many of us couldn’t even fathom. My brother is a walking miracle, surviving a surgery doctors deemed he would have very little survival (that’s a whole other story). Even with his obstacles I tried showing how much of a blessing and normal life he does live. So, yes, they are right in saying my brother is special, but special in a different way. He is a special athlete, a special brother, and one heck of a special friend.

About Nicholas Piccari:I play music and every show I play my brother Danny is always there to support. Every show he attends, Danny always asked me to play the Irish song "Oh Danny Boy". That song does not fit my style of playing so I did the next best thing. I wrote him a song so anytime he asked me to play his song, I can. I also put a little video together for it.
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August 19, 2014 | Europe Eurasia: Israel

In Israel, Mothers Made Time for Children with Intellectual Disabilities After Leaving Air Raid Shelters

By Robi Dolev

Special Olympics Israel mothers and 120 families that have children with special needs living in the Gaza Strip war zone came to a summer vacation in the north of the country.View Story Special Olympics Israel mothers and 120 families that have children with special needs living in the Gaza Strip war zone came to a summer vacation in the north of the country. We offered to make art workshops. When I asked the Special Olympics families who was willing to volunteer, the response was overwhelming. We included Miki, the bocce coach, who requested to join us to play bocce. We eight mothers set off on Wednesday with the bocce coach. We operated through stations, and many people came to join in the activities. The families spent hours with us, crafting, laughing and simply enjoying. We saw mutual assistance between siblings: What love did they pile upon their special brother/sisters. Eight-year-old Noya fell in love with 3-year-old Meir, a remarkable child with Down syndrome. “Can I take him home as a gift?” she asked his mother. Meir’s mother responded with “Such a gift from heaven comes, but once in a lifetime, and I am not letting him go!” It was an unforgettable experience for all.

About Robi Dolev:My name is Tali, I am the family coordinator in Israel, i encourage each time the family members to share stories.
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August 19, 2014 | Africa: Botswana

Botswana Ministry of Education Helps Special Olympics Reach New Areas

By Mr Ross Tebele

The month of May was an exciting one for Special Olympics Botswana. Through a partnership with the Botswana Ministry of Education, Special Olympics Botswana held two regional games, one in the remote Western region and the other in the Southern region of the country. Some of these communities had never before been exposed to Special Olympics or its mission.View Story The month of May was an exciting one for Special Olympics Botswana. Through a partnership with the Botswana Ministry of Education, Special Olympics Botswana held two regional games, one in the remote Western region and the other in the Southern region of the country. Some of these communities had never before been exposed to Special Olympics or its mission. Special Olympics Botswana receives support from the Botswana Ministry of Education to reach out and engage people with intellectual disabilities in the country. The Ministry also helps to identify special schools around the country where Special Olympics Botswana can pilot and host competitions. The Ministry’s Chief Education Officer, Ms. Lesego Masitara, is very involved with Special Olympics Botswana and attends most competitions. She is impressed by the remarkable talent the athletes display during the games. In the Western region 6 special schools and 72 athletes participated in track and field events hosted at Kelekele Primary School, and in the South Central region 323 athletes from 15 different schools competed at Mogoditshane Special School in Gaborone. JAF Auto contributed generously to the success of these events as part of their commitment to supporting the games in these regions. There are persons with intellectual disability in all cultures, races, and countries. Special Olympics’ goal is to create awareness of the 200 million people in the world with ID.

About Mr Ross Tebele :Special Olympics Botswana National Director
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Special Olympics Blog

Bursting with Pride

"I’m looking forward to the day when Mary will become a Special Olympics Young Athlete. I cannot wait."read more »

Posted on 2014-07-25 by Ryan

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