History Of Special Olympics
The Special Olympics is an organization that sponsors sports training and competitions for people with intellectual disabilities. Through sports, adults and children with intellectual disabilities can find confidence in themselves and interact with others. In this way, the Special Olympics helps break up the isolation that many people with intellectual disabilities feel.
Early Efforts. In 1962, Eunice Kennedy Shriver founded a summer sports camp for people with intellectual disabilities. This camp served as the precursor for the first Special Olympics, which was held in July 1968. The event featured 1,000 athletes from 26 states and Canada, but only had 100 spectators in attendance.
Growth. The U.S. Olympic Committee granted Shriver's organization the right to use the term "Olympics" in 1971. The first International Special Olympics Winter Games was held in Colorado in 1977. Featuring over 500 athletes, the games attracted news coverage from several major TV stations.
International Recognition. The International Olympic Committee officially recognized the Special Olympics in 1988. In 1993, the fifth Special Olympics World Winter Games were held in Austria, making them the first World Winter Games outside the United States.
Empowerment. New regulations for the Special Olympics in 1995 allowed people with intellectual disabilities to serve as referees as well as athletes. The Special Olympics also helped fund an initiative in 2001 to help encourage and empower young students with intellectual disabilities.
Government Support. The Special Olympics Sport and Empowerment Act of 2004 marked a huge milestone in Special Olympics history. The act earmarked $15 million over five years for the social and athletic support of people with intellectual disabilities, and was the first legislated support for the Special Olympics.
Special Olympics Today. The Special Olympics has expanded greatly since its early days. In 2006, it included 2.5 million athletes. In 2010, over three million Special Olympics athletes train and compete in 181 countries.