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Special Olympics World Games: A Global Stage to Build Awareness

Every day and all around the world, our athletes train and strive to achieve their very best. At World Games, the entire Special Olympics Movement comes together to see our athletes in action and celebrate their victories over huge odds.

The World Is Watching

Scores and Schedules. See results of the 2013 World Summer Games in PyeongChang, Korea, broken out by delegation and sport.

No other organized event in the world has the social and emotional impact of the Special Olympics World Games.

For the athletes and their families, the experience opens doors to unimagined possibilities. For volunteers, coaches and other supporters from all parts of the world, the Games inspire hope and belief in a brighter future of global acceptance, understanding and unity.

The World Games are flagship events for the Special Olympics Movement. They take place every two years and alternate between Summer and Winter Games. The Games can be the world's largest sporting event of the year. Thousands of athletes, coaches, volunteers and supporters attend to see and cheer the skills and accomplishments of people with intellectual disabilities.   

The World Games feature more than a week of grueling, yet inspiring, competition among thousands of athletes. Through media coverage of the Games, the stories and achievements of our athletes are seen by millions of people worldwide. 

All around the world, our athletes train for months ahead of the big event. Special Olympics Puerto Rico athlete Rose Farinacci has seen how much hard work goes into the World Games, but also how much heart: "My whole country is watching me," she says. "So I'm going to keep listening and keep pushing forward. I'm going to win and be a champion." 

Inspiring Nations

The Torch, medals, coins, pins, uniforms, photographs and publications of the XIII Special Olympics World Summer Games ATHENS 2011, constitute, as of 27 June 2013, official exhibits of the Marathon Race Museum of Greece. Memorabilia are being displayed in the Main Hall of the Museum.

The bravery of athletes at World Games inspires participating nations and brings much-needed attention to the conditions of people with intellectual disabilities within their borders. At the same time, the World Games offer a chance for important cross-cultural conversations about how to foster inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities. Athletes, families, volunteers, world leaders and Special Olympics celebrity ambassadors meet at the Games to attend policy summits, exchange ideas and talk to the public about the life-changing transformations Special Olympics brings about in participants and communities.

The World Games also create change within the countries that host them. World Games stimulate local economies and create momentum for citizen engagement by promoting grass-roots volunteerism. One example came in Ireland during the 2003 World Games, when 30,000 people from all over the country volunteered to work at Games in Dublin.

This impact extends beyond people and communities to include governments and political action. In Ireland, a new disability act was passed after the 2003 World Games. And, leading up to the 2007 World Summer Games in Shanghai, China unveiled an unprecedented five-year government growth plan that included new educational, job and health care opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities across the nation.

Special Olympics Founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver had this to say about the power of the World Games:

"Special Olympics is one 'issue' any local or national government can and will support once they have the unique experience of hosting a World Games and learning more about these athletes. I say this emphatically because it has happened after every World Games in our history. It always happens."

Countdown to the Next World Games

Los Angeles 2015. 

Each World Games marks progress toward a new global vision of acceptance for those of all abilities. The Games are also a way to show the world what it means to be the “Best in Sport.” 

The next World Summer Games will be held in 2015 in Los Angeles, California, USA.

The 2015 Los Angeles Games will bring the Special Olympics World Summer Games back to the United States after an absence of 16 years – for the first time since the 1999 Special Olympics Summer Games in Raleigh, North Carolina. 

LA 2015 is expected to draw 7,000 athletes from almost every one of our 170 countries. In addition, there will be 3,000 coaches, 30,000 volunteers and an estimated 500,000 spectators.

The Best In Sport

All of our athletes want to be treated as skilled sports men and women – and their talents give us little choice. At World Games, they come to test themselves in front of other people and other athletes. They want to see how good they really are. Despite the obstacles they face on a daily basis, they are striving for their personal best: their highest score, their fastest time. Their courage against the odds and this commitment to excellence is sport in its purest form -- and sport at its best.

"Special Olympics is everything that's good and right about sports. It teaches, it entertains, it motivates." Bill Shumard of SO Southern California also sees something at Special Olympics games you don't always see at other competitions -- a high level of sportsmanship. "I love the way our athletes compete with dignity and respect for each other... they show such enthusiasm and pure joy."

The Special Olympics World Games embrace unity, achievement and dignity. The Special Olympics goal is to continue that same feeling long after the competitions are over. We see a world where there is no 'us' or 'them.' Instead, peoples of all abilities are treated with dignity and respect and all are welcomed with acceptance and understanding. 

In this world, there are millions of different abilities but no disabilities. There's also lots of fun!

History of the Games

  • 1968, Chicago
  • 1970, Chicago
  • 1972, Los Angeles, California

  • 1975,  Mt. Pleasant, Michigan

  • 1977, Steamboat Springs, Colorado

  • 1979, Brockport, New York
1981, Stowe, Vermont
1983, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

  • 1985, Park City, Utah

  • 1987,  South Bend, Indiana

  • 1989, Reno, Nevada

  • 1991, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota 
  • 1993, Salzburg, Austria

  • 1995, New Haven, Connecticut
1997, Toronto, Canada
1999, Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina

  • 2001, Anchorage, Alaska

  • 2003, Dublin, Ireland
2005, Nagano, Japan

  • 2007, Shanghai, China

  • 2009, Boise, Idaho
2011, Athens, Greece
2013, PyeongChang, South Korea

  • 2015, Los Angeles, California