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Everything you need to know about Special Olympics World Summer Games

The Special Olympics World Games, often termed the Special Olympiad, are global sports competitions that serve as a stage for people with intellectual disabilities to exhibit their abilities. The Special Olympics organization, which receives support and financial backing from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), conducts these events.

American philanthropist Eunice Kennedy Shriver was the visionary who founded these remarkable games. The Special Olympics World Games are scheduled biennially, alternating between Summer and Winter editions, ensuring that they don’t overlap. This scheduling echoes the format used by the conventional Olympics and Paralympics.

What sets the Special Olympics World Games apart is the assembly of around 350,000 coaches and volunteers, coupled with thousands of competitors. Athletes have the opportunity to engage in approximately 32 sports that bear resemblance to traditional Summer/ Winter Olympics. The participants, including children and adults with intellectual disabilities, showcase a plethora of skills.

Various Editions of the Special Olympics World Summer Games

Chicago, Illinois, USA, was the setting for the inaugural Special Olympics Summer Games in 1968. In 1991, there was a change in name from the International Special Olympics Summer/Winter Games to the Special Olympics World Summer/Winter Games. Athens, Greece, held the games from June 25 to July 4, 2011, where 6,000 athletes from across 170 countries gathered to compete.

After 16 years since Raleigh, North Carolina hosted the event in 1999, the USA once again became the host nation in 2015, with Los Angeles taking up the mantle of organizing the games. The 2019 edition of the games unfolded from March 14 to 21, 2019, in Abu Dhabi, UAE. This edition was particularly noteworthy as it marked the inaugural occasion of the games being held in the Middle East or North Africa region.

The Recent Edition of the Games

The recent edition of the Special Olympics World Summer Games kicked off in Berlin, Germany, which is the sixteenth edition of the games. The event got underway on June 17 and will run until June 25, 2023, which will witness the participation of 7,000 athletes and unified partners from almost 170 countries. Apart from the massive number of athletes, 3,000 coaches and 20,000 volunteers will also be playing an invaluable role during the commencement of the events. Let’s take a look at how the Special Olympics World Summer Games have evolved from the year it was established to date.

EditionHost CityHost CountrySportsNumber of nations participated
1968ChicagoUnited States22
1970ChicagoUnited States23
1972Los AngelesUnited States
1975Mount PleasantUnited States
1979BrockportUnited States
1983Baton RougeUnited States3
1987IndianaUnited States
1991MinnesotaUnited States
1995New HavenUnited States21143
1999North CarolinaUnited States19150
2003DublinIreland23166
2007ShanghaiChina25165
2011AthensGreece22185
2015Los AngelesUnited States25177
2019Abu DhabiUnited Arab Emirates22190
2023BerlinGermany24
(‘ – ‘ denotes that the number is not known)

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