Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Two athletes running on a track. History Page Lead
From a backyard summer camp for people with intellectual disabilities to a global movement, Special Olympics has been changing lives and attitudes since 1968.

Out of the Shadows: Events Leading to the Founding of Special Olympics

A chronology of the people and events that led to creation of the world’s largest organization dedicated to promoting respect, inclusion and acceptance of people with intellectual disabilities.
13 Min Read

Camp Shriver - The Beginning of a Movement

When people speak of the origin of Special Olympics, they look no further than the first Camp Shriver—founded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver in the early 1960s. They talk of one woman's dream that started in her own backyard.
2 Min Read

1960s: The Beginning of a Worldwide Movement

It all began in the 1950s and early 1960s, when Eunice Kennedy Shriver saw how unjustly and unfairly people with intellectual disabilities were treated. She decided to take action.
3 Min Read

1968 Games

Fifty years ago, the world began to change for the better, for millions of people with intellectual disabilities—and for all those who love them. And it started in Chicago, Illinois.
7 Min Read

1970s: A Joyful New Movement Gains Momentum

Stigma facing people with intellectual disabilities is slowly being replaced with respect and admiration—on the playing fields and off.
1 Min Read

1980s: Recognition and Growth Around the World

From the United Nations to the International Olympics Committee, Special Olympics gains recognition as the premier sports organization for people with intellectual disabilities around the world.
1 Min Read

1990s: Pushing for Inclusion and Improved Health for People with ID

The first International Games are held outside the USA, as Special Olympics gains a greater global foothold. New health programs mark a turning point as well.
1 Min Read

2000s: The Sun Never Sets on the Special Olympics Movement

Our fourth decade is all about growth. Millions of athletes are taking part in thousands of competitions every year. The sun never sets on the Special Olympics movement!
3 Min Read

2010s: Building an Inclusive World

As the movement continues to grow, the joy of Unified Sports is bringing together people with and without intellectual disabilities on every continent. We invite the world to come play with us -- and experience the transformative power of sports!
5 Min Read
Eunice Presents Medal at 1968 Games

Special Olympics Celebrates 50 Years!

Special Olympics kicked off our 50th Anniversary Celebration in Chicago! We launched into the next 50 years of the Inclusion Revolution with a week of high-level sports competition at the Unified Cup, family-friendly fun at the Torch Run and Global Day of Inclusion festival, and a star-studded concert at Northerly Island.