From a backyard summer camp for people with intellectual disabilities to a global movement, Special Olympics has been changing lives and attitudes since 1968, almost 50 years. HISTORY

The 1960s

The first International Special Olympics Summer Games are held at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois, USA. A thousand people with intellectual disabilities from 26 U.S. states and Canada compete in track and field, swimming and floor hockey.


Read about the 1960s. ››

The 1970s

An idea that started in the USA begins to spread across the globe. Stigma facing people with intellectual disabilities is slowly being replaced with respect and admiration—on the playing fields and off.

Read about the 1970s. ››

The 1980s

The Special Olympics movement continue to grow and to gain respect in the 1980s. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) signs a historic agreement with Sargent and Eunice Kennedy Shriver officially endorsing and recognizing Special Olympics.

Read about the 1980s. ››

The 1990s

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.

Read about the 1990s. ››

The 2000s

The Unified Sports program grew rapidly in the 2000s. People with and without intellectual disabilities teamed up in a growing number of countries worldwide.

Read about the 2000s. ››

The 2010s

The 2010s have seen remarkable growth in the visibility and power of Special Olympics to changes lives worldwide. In the decade, our Unified Sports program exceeds 1 million participants; our Health program expands dramatically thanks to public and private investment; and the number of athletes with intellectual disabilities and Unified Sports teammates reaches 5.3 million.

Read about the 2010s. ››