Special Olympics is an international organization dedicated to empowering children and adults with intellectual disability (mental retardation, learning disability, whatever) to become physically fit and respected members of society through athletic competition and year-round sports training in a variety of Olympic-type sports.
To be eligible to participate in Special Olympics, an athlete must be at least eight years old and identified by an agency or professional as having one of the following conditions: mental retardation, cognitive delays as measured by formal assessment, or significant learning or vocational problems due to cognitive delay that require, or have required, specially-designed instruction.
Both the Special Olympics World Summer Games and the Special Olympics World Winter Games are held every four years. They are held the year before the Olympic Games.
The official summer sports are:
The official winter sports are:
The first Special Olympics World Games were organized by Mrs. Eunice Kennedy Shriver in Soldier Field, Chicago, Illinois, USA, in 1968. The concept was born in the early 1960s when Mrs. Shriver started a day camp for people with mental retardation. She saw that these individuals were far more capable in sports and physical activities than many experts thought.
Special Olympics are often confused with Paralympics, but that's not the same thing! Paralympics are elite sport events for elite athletes with physical handicap. They emphasize, however, the participants' athletic achievements rather than their disability. Both the Paralympice World Summer Games and the Paralympice World Winter Games are held every four years. Since the Seoul Summer Games (1988) and the Albertville Winter Games (1992) they have taken place at the same venues as the Olympics, following them about 2 weeks later. The first Paralympice World Games were conducted in Rome, Italy, in 1960.