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Special Olympics Official General Rules

The General Rules provide the rules and guidelines for all our activities and bind us to our purpose, mission and goals.


These Special Olympics Official General Rules have been revised and restated to provide current and consolidated guidance to all accredited Special Olympics Programs and Local Organizing Committees.
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Dr. Dicken Young, Founder & Inaugural Chairman of Special Olympics Hong Kong; Former SOI Board Member and President, Asia Pacific & East Asia Regions
Molly Shriver & Kathleen Shriver, Chair and Vice Chair, Founder’s Council
Loretta Claiborne, Board Member, Special Olympics Athlete, & Chief Inspiration Officer
4 Min Read


Special Olympics unleashes the transformative power and joy of sports to reveal the full potential of athletes with intellectual disabilities, creating more inclusive communities every day around the world.
6 Min Read


Article 1: Mission, Goal & Founding Principles

The Mission Statement, Goal and Founding Principles of Special Olympics are outlined in this Article.
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Article 2: Special Olympics Athletes

Provides that every person with an intellectual disability who is at least eight years of age is eligible to participate in Special Olympics, and that there is no maximum age limit for participation, and it highlights the Young Athletes Program.
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Article 3: Sports Training and Competition

Covers the objectives of Special Olympics training and competition, which promote Special Olympics as an athlete-centered Movement.
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Article 4: SOI’s Governance of Special Olympics

Describes SOI’s rights and responsibilities to ensure that all activities offered to persons with intellectual disabilities under the name of Special Olympics are organized, financed and conducted in accordance with international standards and in a manner that preserves the quality and reputation of Special Olympics and serves the best interests of persons with intellectual disabilities worldwide.
30 Min Read

Article 5: Governance and Operation of Accredited Programs

Outlines the requirements of Accredited Programs as these relate to structures and governance. These include a requirement for each Accredited Program to have a Board of Directors or Program Committee, comprised of at least one sports expert, one expert in the field of intellectual disabilities, one Special Olympics athlete trained on Board/Program Committee participation, and at least one close family relation of a Special Olympics athlete.
30 Min Read

Article 6: Accreditation of Programs

Describes SOI’s authority to grant Accreditation, which is a way of assuring that core quality and growth requirements of the Special Olympics mission, and also minimum management and financial standards, are met by Accredited Programs.
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Article 7: Fundraising and Development

Establishes that each Accredited Program is solely responsible for raising the funds needed to pay for its own program and administrative operations, and limits a Program’s fundraising rights to within its own jurisdiction.
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Article 8: Financial arrangements, Fiscal accountability, Insurance

Outlines the standards for financial management that GOCs and Accredited Programs must comply with. It describes the planning, budgeting and accounting requirements of Accredited Programs.
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Articles 9: Interpretation of General Rules

Provides guidance on how to interpret the General Rules and allows for substituting alternate terms for "intellectual disability" to conform with local government language.
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Articles 10: Definitions; Structure of Special Olympics

Provides guidance on the meanings and definitions of key words and phrases in the General Rules.
7 Min Read

US Programs Only

Supplement to Special Olympics General Rules

This supplement to the Special Olympics Official General Rules contains those General Rules specific to the United States Accredited Programs. The supplement should be read together with the General Rules.
15 Min Read